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The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  295 ratings  ·  79 reviews
An original and brilliant work. Margaret Drabble weaves her own story into a history of games, in particular jigsaws, which have offered her and many others relief from melancholy and depression.

The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws is an original and brilliant work. Margaret Drabble weaves her own story into a history of games, in particular jigsaws,
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Hardcover, 350 pages
Published 2009 by Atlantic Books
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Average rating 3.21  · 
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Eliza
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
1/13/2010: I loved this book, despite its rambling lack of structure and and stream of consciousness style. Drabble is such a confident and relaxed writer that I was carried along, despite some slow patches. More importantly, her stated purpose--to use the writing of the book as therapy for herself while she was taking care of her husband, who was being treated for cancer--is more than realized, and in the most thoughtful, compassionate, and intimate ways. In addition to all I now know about ...more
Hermien
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recognised a lot but also learned a lot. And I'm glad jigsaw puzzles have Ms Drabble's seal of approval as I love doing them whilst listening to audiobooks.
SarahC
As with most things that occur in our everyday lives, puzzle-working can generate many thoughts of things that were and are important to us. the Pattern in the Carpet is a book that reflects this. The notable English writer Margaret Drabble writes this reflective story of moments and thoughts from her own life, combined with the historic journey of the jigsaw puzzle. This is an unusual combination among the publishing trends of today, but a very good reason to set the trends aside for a moment.

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Allyson
Jan 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this informative, ruminative, sometimes dry, very British book. I love the cover and when I found my interest waning, I would look at the pattern and it would revive me. I have played with jigsaw puzzles all of my life, but mostly in my youth, and to hear of their history along with children's games was interesting.
Very digressive, but a book I would read again next year simply to explore areas I may have glossed over.
Almost like a mosaic, something to be studied in
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Leslie Angel
I like Drabble. Had to read this --jigsaw puzzles--retired teacher, dog-loving, totally non- housecleaning aunt--but it was too rambling. Some good info. Needed serious editing. Some great lines. Strangely, not enough about jigsaw puzzles or her life. Liked her line about things coming together, like a disaster movie played backwards.RR-NYT
Cathy
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
I bought this because I love Drabble and this is an odd genre--a memoir focussed around Jig Saw Puzzles and their history. I left it on the plane and it isn't gripping enought to merit buying another copy. But I will finish it when it gets to the library.
Lyn Elliott
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A gentle, ruminative book, that follows connections as they occur to Drabble, who began writing this book as a history of jigsaws when her husband, Biographer Michael Holroyd, was critically ill undergoing treatment for aggressive cancer. But the book expanded from its starting point to become a rich mosaic of family memoir, information on puzzles, games and reflection on their place in our lives. Her mother's sister, Phyllis Bloor, is there throughout the book as a loved and comforting ...more
Blaire
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Oddly enough, while Ms. Drabble set out initially to write a history of jigsaws, when she mentions them it's mostly as time-wasters. The book is really about the jigsaw concept as metaphor for lots of things in life. Her musings are wide-ranging; partly memoir, partly philosophical, with a little art history. While I was impressed with her erudition, I came away from the book feeling unsatisfied. Ms. Drabble tells us that she suffers from chronic depression, and it shows in the tone of the ...more
Armelle
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This rambling book touches on many (many, many, many) things besides jigsaw puzzles - tapestry, mosaic, buying souvenirs, Jackson Pollock, children's literature - the list goes on.

The book is often fascinating - and just as often extremely frustrating. The fascinating parts managed to pull me through to the end, but just barely. I considered giving up on it more than once.
False
I think I started to read this twice, and never finished it. I have no idea why. This time I did read it, and I enjoyed it. It had all of the qualities I like in a book: history, people in history, personal memoir, geography, exploration--in other words a lot to hold your interest. That and she writes with a very honest pen.
Debra
Dec 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not a typical Margaret Drabble--but it prompted me to order 3 jigsaw puzzles--Botticelli's Venus, Giorgione's Tempest, and Raphae's The School of Athens. Drabble says you never notice the details of a painting so carefully as when you put it together as a jigsaw.
Karen
It struck me that Drabble constructed this book in the manner of putting together a jigsaw. Topics picked up at random, examined, then she quickly went on to another area of the whole - and so it covered her family history, especially as related to her Aunt Phyl, games, jigsaws, childhood pastimes, the history of the aforementioned, writers, getting old, and so on. There were portions of this I liked very much (especially the family sections which were warm but clearsighted). Yet sometimes so ...more
Ginni
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is rather like having a long, rambling conversation with a favourite aunt - albeit one who is extraordinarily widely read, and scholarly, but not in a stuffy way. Indeed, Drabble’s beloved Aunt Phyl is remembered here, whose passion for jigsaws is one of the main planks of the book. A fascinating, rather melancholy book, which one can dip into and read the short chapters without losing the thread; biographical, elegiac, a book about growing older and remembering, as well as a history of the ...more
Moirad
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderful combination of memories of growing up in the 40s and 50s and the history of children's games and pastimes, focussing on jigsaws, but ranging out from there to mosaics, marquetry, and much more. Fascinating.
Mary
Oct 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
The discussion at Pageturners [Multnomah County Library] was interesting, but this book was just not my cup of tea. The author, who is in her 80s, compares living to piecing together a complex jigsaw puzzle.
Fiona
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A memoir expressed through games and jigsaw puzzles. A lovely read.
Lois Mitchell
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this book in 2010 and don't remember much about it.
Bill
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Loved her autobiographical writing but skipped through the "history" bits about games and jigsaws
Carol
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Rambling, arcane, and slightly interesting
Cheryl
Oct 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Rambling and unstructured, not enough about jigsaw puzzles to hold my attention. I found the writing dull.
Madelyn
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Robin Branstator
I am wavering between 3.5 and 4 stars for this book. I couldn't put it down and yet I was bored silly in some parts. Drabble meanders between memories of her childhood, her eccentric (and fun) Auntie Phyl, and then semi-scholarly (certainly in-depth) research into the history of jigsaws, and tangentially, games, mosaics, architectural patterns, etc. I found much of it fascinating, and read the book with my iPad open, curious to search people and art with of which I knew little. Examples of some ...more
Katharine Holden
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full of wry bits of humor. A wonderful, rambling combination of memoir and history.
Janet
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
A delightful meander through the world of childhood, puzzles and the things that keep us sane in a (slightly) mad world. In a rather unhappy childhood touched by depression, Auntie Phyl was an anchor, and she and the author shared many happy hours doing jigsaws and visiting places of mutual interest. Margaret Drabble explores the random pieces of her life, the things that evoke happy memories and those that are perhaps best forgotten. some are still in her possession, like the warming pan from ...more
Juan Manuel Perez Pelayo
I currently finished Drabble's book but could not get myself to write about it for many reasons, which are not all that important compared to what I learned. I have noticed that much of the criticism I have for any author starts out pretty much the same way. I am always amazed at their diction and sentences perhaps becase they phrased many things that I have thought long ago in the way I meant them to say. But Drabble, might be my antipode. Her interests with jigsaws is perhpas equally as strong ...more
Laurie
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Margaret Drabble gives us the history of jigsaw puzzles in a meandering manner with lots of detours along the way. In her research (which was extensive) she found that jigsaw puzzles started out as educational toys- maps cut into countries or counties, teaching geography as they are put together. Later, picture puzzles were used as a free gift with purchase. They became immensely popular, triggering the creation of picture puzzles as things to be sold. The author relates them to the history of ...more
Alison Moore
Jun 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoy doing jigsaws and I'm fascinated by historical overviews of everyday household objects, so I was expecting to enjoy this book, which had caught my attention when I leafed through it at a friend's house. I also hoped that it might give me a 'way in' to the world of Margaret Drabble, whom I've frequently tried to read but without success as for some reason I simply don't relate to her writing. I found the subject matter and the stories of her aunt Phyl very appealing, and read it with ...more
Michelle
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is in part a history of jigsaw puzzles and in part a memoir of sorts of the author’s life and the role that jigsaw puzzles have played a part in it. The history of jigsaw puzzles can be thought of going back to mosaics, but the first true puzzles were educational in nature and for the upper classes and were initially geographical in nature, with the pieces forming the shapes of countries. The author discusses how she came to love puzzles and her visits to her aunt’s home, a place of ...more
Susan
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've recently developed a fascination with jigsaw puzzles, after adding a new table - which is perfect for displaying a puzzle on for folks to add pieces to as they wander by (my mother-in-law used to have a similar one, and guests would often become intrigued with the puzzles). While reading about jigsaws online, I discovered the existence of this book. I have always like Margaret Drabble's work, so I ordered a copy. The book was originally meant to be a history of jigsaw puzzles, according to ...more
Dottie
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2015
p 310 -- "I still have the mirror, but the painting has come unstuck and mislaid itself."


Much of this spoke to me as I relate her connection to her aunt and the jigsaw puzzles which ran parallel to my own connection of the same pasttime wiht my Grandmother. It was rare that there wasn't a jigsaw puzzle in progress in grandma's house -- holiday season an expcetion usaully when the meal was to be held at her home. Puzzles also lived in our own home throughout my life and I have a large collection
...more
Alice
When I first began reading this book (the March 2013 selection for my local book group) I hated it. The books goes on and on about British authors and games (obviously because Margaret Drabble is British), many of whom I had never read or even knew about. However, my new year's resolution this year it to finish books (I have several I need to go back and finish) and I didn't want this book to end up collecting dust on my "shelved for now" bookshelf. As I read more I did find and mark some ...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
“Auntie Phyl's last months in the care home were extra pieces. Age is unnecessary. Some of us, like my mother, are fortunate enough to die swiftly and suddenly, in full possession of our faculties and our fate, but more and more of us will be condemned to linger, at the mercy of anxious or indifferent relatives, careless strangers, unwanted medical interventions, increasing debility, incontinence, memory loss. We live too long, but, like the sibyl hanging in her basket in the cave at Cumae, we find it hard to die.” 7 likes
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