Jules's Reviews > The Peppered Moth

The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble
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Sep 05, 11

bookshelves: british-fiction, fiction
Read from August 26 to 31, 2011

After reading the first third of this book, I was left feeling quite angry and patronised about a narrative fictional account of working class life in South Yorkshire, England. As Yorkshire (and South Yorkshire itself) is my birthplace and former neck of the woods, I felt angry that lives, be they working class and difficult, should be portrayed on paper so dismally and without hope. I was also angry that these lives were being implicitly compared, contrasted and ultimately lambasted against academic life in Cambridge. Well, it’s chalk and cheese or black and white and DAMN, I thought, more English class stereotypes being paraded and abused on paper. DAMN, I thought again closing the pages in rage. Maybe though, this was Drabble’s point and intention all along. Maybe this was the social commentary she wanted to make to keep us on the ball.

After the first third or so, Drabble continues a disjointed narrative over characters and timeframes and explores overriding themes of womanhood, birthright and emotional inheritance spanning over a total of four generations and explores loosely yet constructively the question of even if you leave your hometown and social background, do they or can they ever leave you? I say a ‘disjointed’ narrative but this is weirdly something that ends up as a positive writing feature. The journey that Drabble takes you on may be fairly rollercoaster and a little bumpy in places but the sights that you see from the window are tremendous. By the end of the journey, I felt that Drabble has made me ask many questions of my own route in life and I could empathise with the three female protagonists – grandmother, daughter and granddaughter – thus.

Drabble’s writing is extremely fluid and easy to follow and she uses subtle humour as well as light and heavy sarcasm to illustrate life’s little ironies. Towards the end of the book, I was jubilant to see that, through time, my home county had been painted more prosperously and that life’s simple pleasures - nature, innocence and even romance - could be found within her boundaries. Time had moved her from stifling to inviting by the time the novel had run its course and the shift from ‘soot to suitable’ certainly suited me fine. Drabble is a brave writer with characterisation and I would say she knows her subjects well. She writes in something of a feminist tone and most of her ladies are formidable if only quietly, independently and subtly to themselves. Almost certainly, all of them are influenced with the idea of escape and very few choose to stay rooted or stagnant for very long.

I would recommend this book to any lover of well-written and clever ‘thinking’ fiction. Those who seek message and inference through their reading will not be disappointed. Reading the first part of this book certainly did it no justice at all but, by me plodding on, I found this book turned itself around and was certainly worth sticking with right until the end. Even better than that, it delighted me and I fully look forward to reading some more of Drabble again. May the moth fly once more and remember, as they say in the white rose county of Yorkshire, “where there’s muck there’s brass”.
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Reading Progress

08/26/2011 page 250
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