Friday, January 4, 2013

The Middle Ground, by Margaret Drabble. Borzoi Books, 1980

“The Middle Ground” is basically a novel without a plot, a book driven by the characters. A middle aged group of British spouses, lovers and friends seeks to find their ways through mid-life crises time.

Kate, a journalist, sees her job changing and maybe going away; she has been a writer of pieces about women, their problems and how society is wronging them. She had a liaison for many years with the husband of her best friend, with the blessings of said friend, as said friend didn’t want to have sex with the man any longer. That’s over now. Her children have grown up and no longer need her. What is next for her? What is next for her friends, who are also at changing points in their lives?

While mainly about the changes of middle age, this novel was written from a feminist viewpoint in the era when so many authors were writing feminist novels. Thankfully, this one has men who are not all selfish idiots. Well, her ex-lover is a selfish idiot, but the others aren’t. Everyone in this story is flawed but with a basic core of decency and respect for others; this is not a book of good and evil caricatures but of realism. The book follows them as they go about their everyday live, lives full of the same pains, problems and joys we all share. Though far from being Drabble’s best work, ‘Middle Ground’ is a warm paean to friendship and survival.


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