I will admit that I was drawn to this book by the beautiful blue colouring of this cover. I knew that I wanted to buy a book by Margaret Drabble and uI will admit that I was drawn to this book by the beautiful blue colouring of this cover. I knew that I wanted to buy a book by Margaret Drabble and ultimately my selection was purely cosmetic but I have often found this to be a helpful way of making a choice. I was brought up with the phrase 'Never judge a book by its cover' but I'm not sure this is always correct. I have discovered much literature, music, food simply from being drawn in by its aesthetic qualities. But I suppose this is an argument for another discussion.
Jerusalem the Golden is the story of Clara and it really is a coming of age kind of book. Clara is brought up in a stiflingly small town in the North of England. Her brothers are pretty non-descript and her father dies when she is around sixteen but it is her mother that is the true influence on her life. Her mother is a confusing and loveless woman, the antithesis of the person Clara herself would like to become. From witnessing her mother's small life and small mind, Clara is determined that she will escape; from her home town, her family and the mindset that she is terrified may be hereditary.
Once she has escaped to London, experienced life as she imagined it might be and finished University, she now has the problem of how to stay free and not return, as she believed her mother expects of her. Through a chance meeting, she befriends a family entirely opposite from her own - easy going, loving, successful, clever and it is this family that she projects her hopes onto.
I loved this book for the most part but found myself unsatisfied by the end and I'm not entirely sure why. Clara was quite an inspiring character and very thoroughly and specifically created by the author. She doesn't just want to see and do everything, to be a tourist of the world, she wants to experience everything first hand and to really sink into real life. She doesn't just want to see Paris, she wants to live Paris in order to truly feel alive. This was quite emboldening to read in this way as it mirrors my own feelings. I felt myself really rooting for Clara, feeling that if she can find a way to really live then so can we all. Then just over half way through the book, she diverted off in another direction, leaving me standing with my mouth hanging open thinking 'but, where are you going?'
Then I had to remember that this Clara is twenty two after all. Wasn't I myself a little full of extroverted self importance too at that age? So I followed her silently, watching, more intrigued by her than the feelings of comradeship I had earlier experienced. I guess she went the right way for her and I was pleased to see some kind of further insight into her mother and their relationship eventually but I guess it just wasn't the book I thought it was going to be, not that I'm really sure what that could have been. I had expected to Margaret Drabble to have all the answers, including my own, and she had a few, but she mostly only had Clara's. I will say however that I am eagerly looking forward to reading more of her work. There are some really beautiful analogies, some beautiful uses of language and imagery and the flow she uses is very interesting, occasionally jerky and then falling into great circles of language thematic with Clara's moods. These are certainly aspects to savour.
I really enjoyed this book but found it uncomfortable at the same time. I didn't know what to think and sometimes found myself feeling guilty for thinI really enjoyed this book but found it uncomfortable at the same time. I didn't know what to think and sometimes found myself feeling guilty for thinking that I didn't know what to think! It was a really interesting and clever way at looking at a subject from a completely different angle....more