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The Pure Gold Baby

3.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,208 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
Jessica Speight, a young anthropology student in 1960s London, is at the beginning of a promising academic career when an affair with her married professor turns her into a single mother. Anna is a pure gold baby with a delightful sunny nature. But as it becomes clear that Anna will not be a normal child, the book circles questions of responsibility, potential, even age, w ...more
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
somehow, this is my very first margaret drabble novel.

i know.

and while i can look at it objectively and see the strength of its craft, it never really grabbed me as a reader. part of that is due to the shape of the book: it is ostensibly about jess and her pure gold, developmentally disabled baby anna, but it is told at a remove, through a friend of jess' named nellie. nellie seems to have quite a lot of access to jess and her thoughts and actions, but still - at the end of the day - there is a
There are two kinds of rambling I have come across in literature - the good kind of rambling wherein the narrator jumps from one topic to another quite abruptly, dwelling on one subject for a good many number of pages before attempting to make a point of some sort and succeeding in that endeavour. And the bad kind of rambling wherein a reader realizes, with a growing certainty, that the author's intention has been merely to dawdle and haphazardly branch out into topics with little to no substant ...more
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ενδιαφέρον αλλά όχι εξαιρετικό, ή καλύτερα, καθόλου αξιομνημόνευτο.
Οι άπειρες παρεκβάσεις κατέστρεφαν την ατμοσφαιρικότητα της διήγησης μιας ιστορίας που ούτως ή άλλως, στη βάση της, δεν είχε ιδιαίτερες αρετές, δεν πρόκειται δηλαδή για ένα έργο μοναδικό ή πρωτοποριακό θεματικά. Σύγχυση προκαλούσε, επίσης, η έλλειψη δομής, ιεράρχησης της διήγησης, καθώς αφηγητής ήταν μια γειτόνισσα-φίλη της Τζες, που πολλές φορές μιλούσε για τον ίδιο τον εαυτό της, αποσπώντας την εστίαση απ' την ουσιαστική πρωταγ
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Even minor Drabble is still Drabble. The exquisite delineation of character, mores, setting and nuance is still there, as is the deft taking of the long view - showing how things have changed, or not, in recent human history. And that Drabble thing that I love - the magpie-like picking up of broad and assorted bits of knowledge (here, twinned themes of explorers/missionaries and the changing characterization and treatment of humans who deviate from the norm, whether it be physical, mental or psy ...more
Dale Harcombe
Some of the writing in this stops me in my tracks because it is so beautiful or so utterly apt a description. Here is one example. ‘It was one of those grey monochrome February days when the road and the skies flatten and join and spread to a discouraging infinity.’
The story is told from the point of view of Nellie who is friend to Jess. As a result of her affair in the 1960s with a married man, her professor, Jess becomes pregnant and ends up single parent to Anna. But Anna is not the same as o
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Story with an Agenda

I love Margaret Drabble. I didn’t love “Pure Gold Baby”. It’s about a mother/daughter relationship beginning in the ‘60’s. Jessica is a professional woman and unmarried when she has Anna which was unusual at the time. Also unusual is that she doesn’t immediately reveal who Anna’s father is and seems to delight in single parenthood. And then there’s Anna’s situation. She’s mentally challenged. Drabble uses this to explore the history of mental health care in Britain beginning
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
This is my first Drabble and I am disappointed. I have had her on my to-read list for a while and was excited to pick this up off the e-shelf while browsing the other day (didn't even need to use e-reserve!). And after having just finished Lessing's The Fifth Child (interested to see that Drabble mentions Lessing in this novel and says that Lessing had a mentally handicapped child, this is trivia of which I had not been previously aware), the topic seemed relevant. Unfortunately, I was not impre ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It’s quite a while since I read a Margaret Drabble book and I’d forgotten just what a good writer she is, and with this her latest novel she’s certainly on top form. Jessica Speight is a young anthropology student in 1960s London, all set for a successful career, when an affair with her professor leads to an unwanted pregnancy. The arrival of Anna inevitably transforms her life, the more so as Anna is a special baby, a “pure gold baby”, a child who makes particular demands and who brings both mu ...more
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Νατάσσα by: Ioulia Ilvanidou
Ενδιαφέρον, καλογραμμένο - υπέροχες περιγραφές. Ενδιαφέρουσα ιστορία, μου άρεσε που την τοποθετεί στο Λονδίνο του '60 και του '70 και το περιγράφει.
Paul Fulcher
Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
A beautifully written book - but somehow a little unsatisfying, indeed perhaps deliberately so.

The main character Jess gives up her anthropology career to care for her child with development problems - the "Golden Baby" Anna.

She instead becomes, as another character describes her, a social anthropologist of the area of North London in which she lives.

And the best part of the books is Margaret Drabble's observations - as told through the narrator and indirectly Jess - of the changing life in Lo
Aug 28, 2014 rated it did not like it

Wanna know the best way to land on my one-star list? Easy. Just take a subject that's near and dear to me (e.g. the parenting of special-needs children), title your book with something catchy like The Pure Gold Baby to fish in suckers like me who think they're going to read a moving and affecting story about a special needs child, insert an annoying protagonist (i.e. Mom, Jessica Speight, an anthropologist whose maternal instincts were, we're led to presume, sparked while on assignment in Zambi
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

La niña de oro puro de Margaret Drabble. Secretos de vida

Siempre es de agradecer que alguien se atreva a publicar algo distinto en el mercado editorial (tan previsible en ocasiones); tal es el caso de la última novela de la escritora inglesa Margaret Drabble, hermana pequeña de la grandísima A.S. Byatt, y aún menos conocido que esta por aquí; de hecho si buscáis libros suyos solo podréis encontrar, posiblemente, La piedra de moler, una obra te
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In a novel that spans 50 years, from the early 1960s to the present, Margaret Drabble follows the lives of Jess and her daughter Anna, the pure gold baby of the title.

Jess was a budding anthropologist planning on doing field work in Africa when she became pregnant by a married man. Putting her career aside, she becomes instead a free lance writer so she can stay home and support and raise her child. At first Anna is seen as a perfect child; never cranky, never colicky, always cheerful. In a few
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I should have a shelf called" I didn't like it when I started it and then I couldn't put it down". This would be on that list. It's not really a novel,it's an elderly women getting things out of her system.
Amy Warrick
May 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
I kept getting the feeling that Margaret Drabble made a bet with her publisher that she could write a book in which NOTHING HAPPENS so well that I would eventually finish it. She won; I hope the stakes were big.

This is a book about a single mother with a developmentally delayed?disabled? what's the correct term these days? daughter, the sunny, good-natured pure gold baby of the title. It's told by a close friend, and sometimes reads like an erudite conversation...the friend tells about how Jess
Elizabeth Sulzby
Sep 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Finally, A Margaret Drabble Book I Could Read

I have tried to get into a book by Margaret Drabble a few times over the years. Finally, I found one that I could follow to the end. The Pure Gold Baby, as a title, is a strange choice since Drabble only lets Anna, the baby with some kind of strange cognitive (and a bit, physical) disability inhabit a minor part of the novel. Anna appears to function as a part of a way way of letting an adventuresome young women, Jessica (Jess) have a part of a life n
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain, c21st, 2013review
Margaret Drabble is so well-known that I am embarrassed to confess that I have read only two of her extensive oeuvre of 17 novels, just The Millstone (published in 1965 and unsurprisingly still in print because it is brilliant) and The Witch of Exmoor (1996) which I wasn’t so keen on. Still, it didn’t put me off buying The Seven Sisters (2002) and The Red Queen (2004) and snapping up everything on offer at the Op Shop: The Realms of Gold (1975); The Radiant Way (1987) and A Natural Curiosity (19 ...more
I can't make up my mind if I thought this book was ok or if I actually liked it. I think I'm leaning towards the ok side at the moment. It's my first Margaret Drabble, and I wish I'd taken up something with a better following than this one. No matter - there was nothing in the writing itself that put me off. It was more the story and the characters.

I understand that it's a poignant enough story, the book makes the point academically. But it just never grabbed hold of me or touched me in any mea
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing

F 25x33 Ruth Margaret Drabble is clever, she is so clever. This is a book written at many levels. On the surface, a friend, Nellie, tells the life story of Jess and her somewhat disabled daughter, Anna. People on this forum who read the book at this level hated the book...mostly with a passion.

Although I am tired of the navel gazing novels about the writing process, I loved this one. The further into the book I got, I realized the book is about narration. Nellie, the narrator, is the epitome of
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Margaret Drabble's worst is much better than most people's best. Well, what do I know this is only my second time to read Drabble.

Here's the thing: this book is meandering and plotless. It has hardly any dialogue. I dislike all of that about it. I think Drabble did it on purpose in a sly, knowing way, but that doesn't mean it succeeds. Here is a quote: "Anna has we have seen made no progress at all. She was becalmed. There was no story to her life, no plot. The concept of progress did not apply
Xenia Germeni
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Τι ακριβως να γραψω η ταπεινη αναγνωστρια; Το λατρεψα!! Η μεταρφραση της Κ.Σχινα εξαιρετικη, αν σκεφτεί κανεις οτι η Drabble περιγραφει σαν χειμαρρος..Η Τζες -η ηρωιδα του βιβλιου- ζει ολα οσα συμβαινουν στην Βρετανία κατα διαρκεια των δεκαετιών '60 και '70. Η Drabble στηνει ενα μωσαικο του βρετανικου κόσμου εκεινων των δεκαετιων που ολα ανατρεπονται και ολα αμφισβητουνται. Η κόρη της Τζες, η Αννα, που ειναι ενα "μωρο απο ατοφιο χρυσαφι", ενα "ιδιαιτερο" πλασμα, μπορει να φαινεται στη σκια της μ ...more
Joan Colby
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
On the surface, this is a novel about a woman with a retarded child. But, as with all Drabble’s books, the plot is incidental. Her magic is to admit us seamlessly into the lives of her characters—their actions, thoughts, ruminations, griefs, and the asides she shares with their brilliantly apt insights. Drabble could write the phone book and I would read it with pleasure.
Aug 22, 2013 rated it liked it
While studying in Africa, young Jessica Speight, an anthropology student, was struck by the vision of children with "lobster claws," children whose abnormalities would haunt her. In the midst of these impressionable moments, Jessica would ponder her feelings and wonder if their impact on her was a foreshadowing of things to come.

When she has an affair with her married professor, the consequences would be far-reaching. The child born changed Jess's academic future, but also took her into a whole
Rowena Holloway
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“What she felt for those children, as she was to realise some years later, was a proleptic tenderness.” So begins Pure Gold Baby, a novel of lyrical prose that leaves you questioning the reliability of the narrator to great effect.

Nellie has known Jess and her child, Anna, for all of Anna’s life. Drawn together by motherhood, proximity and shared acquaintances, their friendship grows over time. It is Nellie who narrates Jess’s story, often going deep into her friend’s thoughts and perhaps antici
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Anthropology student Jessica Speight is at the start of a budding anthropology career when she has an affair with her professor that leaves her a single mother. Though she has an irresistible charm and sweet demeanor, it soon becomes clear that Jessica's young daughter, Anna, is developmentally behind her peers. The Pure Gold Baby spans several decades, from the 1960's to the present, and examines motherhood, friendship, love and family life through Margaret Drabble's signature prose.

The Pure G

Description: Jessica Speight, a young anthropology student in 1960s London, is at the beginning of a promising academic career when an affair with her married professor turns her into a single mother. Anna is a pure gold baby with a delightful sunny nature. But as it becomes clear that Anna will not be a normal child, the book circles questions of responsibility, potential, even age, with Margaret Drabble's characteristic intelligence, sympathy, and wit.

Drabble once wrote, 'Family life itself, t
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have read most of Margaret Drabble's books, except that a few years ago, I found her too depressing to read, so this is the first I have read for a long time. I loved this book. The main character is Jessica Speight who becomes pregnant by her anothropology professor. Her story is told by her friend, Eleanor who is one of a group of women who become intimate with each other as young women and whose friendships last through middle age. I found the description of life in the 60s in Britain very ...more
Jul 16, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, england

Finished reading ...The Pure Gold Baby / Margaret Drabble … 17 July 2016
ISBN: 9781922147516

Fine writing is no guarantee of a good book.

I can't remember the review that made me put this on my “to read” list but I wish I'd taken heed of the warning on the book cover … “intellectually challenging”. “Intellectual” and, in other cases, “lyrical” have, through experience, become for me code words that say exquisite, pristine, well-crafted prose overwhelming a thin thread of storyline. Barren, sterile,
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, netgalley
Jessica Speight is a young student of anthropology in 1960s London. She has an affair with a married professor and the result is her daughter Anna, a unique child with special needs and Jessica’s pure gold baby.

Jessica’s story is told by a friend who relates the stories of Jessica’s life from the 1960s to the present. Because Jessica is straightforward and forthright in her quest to provide Anna with the most productive and happy life possible, she is somewhat idolised by her (mostly) faceless w
Kasa Cotugno
I've been reading Margaret Drabble for decades. She is one of those authors a reader can depend upon for the breadth, depth and beauty of her prose, the irregularity of her construction, and the generosity of her wide flung interests. The Pure Gold Baby fulfills all these expectations. At the center of the story is Jess, a single mother whose daughter Anna is the pure gold baby of title, a totem child whose "special needs" are not fully named or diagnosed when she is born in London in the 60's. ...more
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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
More about Margaret Drabble...
“Minor talents or failing talents ask much of those who associate with them. They suck, they cling, they sour, they devour, and they can kill their hosts. Disappointment is a deadly companion. We didn't yet know how many of us would end up in its grip, because we were all still striving, and some of us thought we were thriving.” 2 likes
“It was easier to ignore the consideration of paternal genes then than it would be now. We did not then consider ourselves held in the genetic trap. We thought each infant was born pure and new and holy: a gold baby, a luminous lamb. We did not know that certain forms of breast cancer were programmed and almost ineluctable, and we would not have believed you if you had told us that in our lifetime young women would be subjecting themselves to preventative mastectomies.” 1 likes
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