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The Needle's Eye

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  443 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Simon Camish, an embittered, diffident lawyer in a loveless marriage, would not have particularly noticed Rose Vassiliou had he not been asked to drive her home one night after a dinner party. Yet at one time she had been notorious-her name constantly in the news.
Now, separated from her Greek husband, she lives alone with her three children. Despite all the efforts and sne
Paperback, 444 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by Mariner Books (first published 1972)
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As implied by the biblical illusion in the title, this is about people uncomfortable with wealth and the practical and emotional hurdles they go through to try to find happiness.

The main character, Rose, is an heiress trying to dispose of her money and also fighting a custody battle against her ex-husband. Simon, the lawyer who befriends her (not her actual lawyer for the case) has a similar distaste for money, but for very different reasons. There is plenty of thoughtful pondering by both, and
Aug 16, 2016 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a rather strange book.
Continuous prose with the odd gap, I much prefer chapters!
Written in a Jamesian style which I found difficult to get in to but once I did it was a compelling read.
Although I found it hard to like any of the characters.
It's about ordinary life of people of different classes!
As to the ending, well it just stopped!
I don't know what it is with Margaret Drabble and me. I keep reading her books, not finding anything wrong with them, but then also finding myself sliding right off the surface of them and into disinterest. I think it must be me.

This one is holding my interest better than the two I read previously, though weirdly I've been "reading" it forever whereas I ran right through the others quickly and without pausing to read like 20 other books in the interim. In fact, I find since I took it back up tha
Dec 04, 2011 Aquavit rated it really liked it
Our yearning for meaningful novels, for novels that will truly change us for the better, is so constantly thwarted that when we come upon the work of a contemporary who has written such a work our first reaction is astonishment. It is something we no longer expect. We have lost faith in many of our imaginative writers; we have begun to look elsewhere for the experiences that only the novel--when it is at its best--can really give us.

Margaret Drabble's "The Needle's Eye" is an extraordinary work:
Aug 29, 2010 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is only the third Margaret Drabble novel I have read, and first published in 1972 it is also the earliest. At the centre of the story of The Needle's Eye is Rose Vassiliou a complex woman who has spent much of her adult life splashed across the pages of the country's newspapers. Renowned as an heiress who gave away her money and married a man against her parent's wishes, we meet Rose in her thirties, divorced, with 3 children and living in a run down house behind Alexandra Palace from where
Nose in a book (Kate)
Jun 15, 2014 Nose in a book (Kate) rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
A great read with fascinating psychological complexity and insight.

The story – as far as there is one – begins at a London dinner party where unhappily married Simon Camish meets Rose Vassiliou, notorious for a scandal Simon can’t quite remember. They strike up an uneasy friendship, based on her asking Simon for gradually increasing favours, many of them related to the fact her ex-husband is sueing her for custody of their three children.

For a novel where not much happens, custody battle notwith
Dec 23, 2008 Vicky rated it really liked it
This is the first Drabble novel I've ever read, and at first I found her intricate, Jamesian style hard going. But soon I was hooked, and now I am so glad there are many other Drabble books lying ahead of me. Such a serious, meticulous writer. No cheap thrills -- she seems to deliberately steer away from the juicy denouements we *think* are coming. But you feel like you've been dipped in reality and have also been in contact with a first-rate mind. The characters are (exasperatingly) like real p ...more
Rosemary Allix
Jan 22, 2012 Rosemary Allix rated it really liked it
In the '60s and '70s I read Margaret Drabble's novels over and over. Amazed by the gripping narrative where nothing much seemed to happen - how did she do it? Her characters seemed to be my people, my generation. There is one particular passage in The Needle's Eye when I really wondered if she was writing about me! (of course not .. but what a skill to make me feel that). Not sure what happened. Perhaps she just 'grew up'. But from The Radiant Way onwards I never managed to relate to her later b ...more
Sep 02, 2012 Philip rated it really liked it
The Needle’s Eye by Margaret Drabble is at one level a story of two marriages, the Vassiliou and the Camish. Its focus is on two characters, Rose Vassiliou and Simon Camish who, even at their first meeting, find themselves inexorably drawn to one another.

Rose Bryanston was brought up in an upper middle class English family. The rambling country house in Norfolk figures large towards the end of the book when Rose and Simon make an unscheduled weekend visit to her parents. Rose has married Christo
Oct 24, 2012 Vicky rated it it was amazing
A devastating and delightful read in equal measure and in a beautifully understated way. Drabble writes with clear insight into the human mind, both accepting of and concerned with the neuroses that we each carry within us. I loved the subjectivity that her writing style employed as she dipped in and out of the consciousness of Rose and Simon, describing social surroundings through their eyes while also getting lost in their reminisces and ruminations on their past and how it has affected their ...more
Aug 28, 2013 Erik rated it liked it
This is the earliest Margaret Drabble novel that I have read to date, (it was published in 1972). I didn't find the subject matter, a child custody case, particularly engaging. But the main characters, Simon Camish and Rose Vassiliou, were fully rendered and fascinating. And I greatly enjoyed the depiction of upper middle class life in London during this period. The scenes from various dinner parties were a fascinating window into a bygone era. There is one dinner party scene where the guests ar ...more
Cherie Pugh
Jun 26, 2013 Cherie Pugh rated it it was amazing
Rose Vassilou inherited a fortune, and a family miserable enough to prove that love is more important than money. To make sure her children stay 'normal', she gives her fortune away and chooses poverty, only to have her own normality constantly questioned. When she meets overly-sensitive Simon, he instinctively understands her, and their relationship soon deepens. Yet Rose's selfish ex-husband wants his children back, and the one thing Rose can be sure to do is to put her own interests last.
By e
Nov 27, 2009 Allison rated it it was ok
I wanted so much to like this book but did not. It chronicled a bunch of stuck, contemptible people who were well aware of their stuckness, and while as disgusted about it as much as I was, utterly incapable of doing a thing about it. As if all was fate. I didn't feel sympathetic to any of them, I just wanted to smack them all. The only reason I'm being generous and giving it two stars is because it wasn't badly written and it certainly addressed the complexity of conflicting ideas and issues. B ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Sep 12, 2014 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
Mostly good but not as captivating as the first of Margaret Drabble's books that I read, though I will certainly read more. Sometimes it was an interesting and pretty universal story of relationships and money and at other times it seemed like a tired period piece of the early 1970s. Often in books like this I find the everyday details as compelling as the story but somehow here the era just seemed to get in the way. It left me feeling like I'd missed the point really.
Jul 15, 2011 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had trouble getting involved with the various characters--they all seemed pretty self-centered and unnecessarily rude. The author makes it clear how Rose , Christopher, and others got the way they are--but it still seems they could have risen above the unfortunate background.

Perhaps she is making a true portrayal of middle-class British society, but it isn't very attractive.
Jan 21, 2016 Maureen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
How I dislike books with page long paragraphs and no chapters. It feels like force feeding or eating lots of dense bread with no water. I won't ever find out if the main character wins or loses the court case with her ex-husband, but the upside is that by then I will be well into reading another book whose characters interest me more.
George Clack
Nov 15, 2009 George Clack rated it liked it
Certain Britishers are astonishingly neurotic about their social status and unhappy with their lot in life. But the novel grows on you as you continue and you get used to the nattering. Real virtues are very credible characters, a plot that surprises, and a big worthy theme - how are we to treat other people?
Dec 15, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
I honestly found this to be a rather strange book because I still don't know if I actually liked any of the main characters. I'm not even show how much I like the book. One could also say the book just stops. I think the book works because it is about life, about ordinary lives. Perhaps this is what makes the book compelling, or compels the reader though the book, despite the characters.
Aug 09, 2011 Ells added it
I love Margaret Drabble! But after wading through the first 50 or so pages, I had to stop! It rambles on in dreadful self-absorption by characters I want desperately to like and just can't. As it is an early work of Drabble's, I'll just let it go and remember all the great reads I have had thanks to her.
Mar 28, 2011 Janis rated it it was amazing
With exquisite dialogue and sheer genius, Margaret Drabble paints a road map of the ways in which our life choices, even the seemingly easy ones, can corrupt the human soul. She offers insights, a great story, and beautifully defined characters, leaving the reader in charge of the rest. Highly recommended. They don't write them like this anymore.
Nov 23, 2013 Yolande rated it really liked it
One of the few of Margaret Drabble's books that I didn't read when it came out. As always, I find her characters totally believable, and her plots consistent with these characters. Nevertheless, there were times when there was a lot of introspection by the characters, lasting pages. Warmed to both Rose and Simon.
Chiffchaff Birdy
Oct 24, 2014 Chiffchaff Birdy rated it liked it
I'm not sure about this book. it says a lot about wealth & its effects. about falseness and unhappiness & how much some people will explain bad behaviour away. Simon camish just came across as lazy. he did not love his wife but did nothing about it. he didn't get to know his children but again did not change his actions. he resented most people but i think he mostly resented himself.
Jan 11, 2016 Penny rated it did not like it
I almost did not finish this book because the style was so slow and boring. I did not think that the characters were interesting. And the long, long, long sentences were confusing and added to my reason to 'give up' on finishing. Once I started skimming, I decided I would stick it out to the end.
Apr 10, 2008 Esther rated it really liked it
Like all Margaret Drabble, about the minutia of day to day life, a social portrait of the time (1970s) touching on marriage, children, work. The characters experiences and inner lives all very deftly written.
Nov 22, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sad, reviewed, lit-fic
I quite enjoyed this, but honestly can't give a good rating to a book that ends with (view spoiler)
Apr 01, 2009 Hanako rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
really was not such a fan of this one. a lot of descriptions and introspection, but not really a ton of plot...
Aug 25, 2009 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-novel
Didn't like this as much as The Realms of Gold, but it has the same virtues--insightfulness, lack of the obvious, a dry humour that stays in the background.
Sep 04, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it
A terrific portrait of a lady (no, not Miss Archer) in difficulties. Reaches down deep. Drabble's best IMO
Aug 11, 2008 Amy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: adults
Sep 07, 2011 Moonlight rated it really liked it
i think this book is very beutiful
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Dame Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield in 1939 and was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. She is the author of eighteen novels including A Summer Bird-Cage, The Millstone, The Peppered Moth, The Red Queen, The Sea Lady and most recently, the highly acclaimed The Pure Gold Baby. She has also written biographies, screenplays and was the editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. ...more
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“Because if one has an image, however dim and romantic, of a journey's end, one may, in the end, surely reach it, after no matter how many detours and deceptions and abandonings of hope. And hope could never have been entirely abandoned, even in the worst days.” 6 likes
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