The Sea Lady The Sea Lady discussion

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message 1: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry This is the December selection for the Reading List. Discussion to start on the 15th.

message 2: by Steve (new)

Steve Ahem!

Steve W.

message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Go for it, Steve

Sherry This sure is some discussion we've got going!

Barbara Sorry, guys. I nominated this book and I'm supposed to start the discussion off, but I'm only a little bit into it. I could tell you all of my excuses. They involve an upper respiratory thing that won't let go, visiting family and my job, but the bottom line is that I'm not done yet.

Steve, did you hate it?


message 6: by Ruth (last edited Dec 15, 2007 10:21PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth I forgot this was on the reading list, so when I saw it a couple of months ago on the library's new books shelf I checked it out.

I know I read it. I remember holding it in my hands. But I'll be fandamngled if I can remember a thing about it.

Which may say more about me than it does the book.


Sherry I'm going to post Steve's review here:

"Someday someone is going to write that great novel featuring characters in late middle age--or early old age, if you will--the stage of life in which I find myself now. That novel will take the baby boom generation by storm and will become a true phenomenon. THE SEA LADY is not that novel."

Now, Steve, why do you say that. I agree, it probably won't be the Gone with the Wind of the Baby Boomers, but I thought it was quite absorbing. I loved the part when Humphrey was a boy. I thought she captured those two summers beautifully. What I don't understand (and I'll put the obligatory

SPOILER here):

Is why the Public Orator went to so much trouble to get everyone together. At first I thought the PO was the author, embedding herself within the story, then I didn't know what to think. One is led to believe there is something sinister about the proceedings, but then I don't find anything sinister.

message 8: by Jim (last edited Dec 16, 2007 01:01PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim After a few books where the characters seemed to be stick figures meant to advance a theory or the plot line, it felt terrifically good to get to know some characters that actually had some character.

This book may have been trying to summarize the meaning of life at 60 somthing. As I read it, you are given choices:

1. Life goes on, old mistakes can be reversed
2. The game is over and you lost. Suffer.
3. You have a fatal disease.

The conclusions weren't as interesting to me as the characters. Drabble seemed to catch what it must be like to be a marine biologist or a television intellectual and did it in an allusive way rather than dragging us through the details of every event. What I like about fiction in general is getting to imagine other lives and this delivers for me.

Jane Jim,

I agree about the characters. And Sherry, I loved the sections about Humphrey's childhood as well. Drabble captured that feeling of being left behind when your best friend discovers a new friend.

I loved the sea images that Drabble used. I have a hardback copy, and this section is found on pp. 188 - 189. Humphrey and Ailsa are young in this part.

"Her thighs ran slippery with sweat, and he drank the brine from her body. A thin salt flow burst from her, smelling and tasting of weed and salt and sea, of soft oyster and hard bone. He hammered at the cuttlefish bone of her. They were both heaving with exertion, until they both crashed, together, from the peak of the wave."

My question is why the book is entitled THE SEA LADY and not THE SEA MAN, since it seems to be more about Humphrey than about Ailsa. I found Humphrey to be much more sympathetic than Ailsa. Ailsa was certainly an interesting character.

I didn't think that the Public Orator needed to be there at all. I found those sections to be annoying.


Sherry Jane, you're in good company. Here is a review by Ursula LeGuin.
She had objections to the Public Orator part as well.

message 11: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth Reading the comments here, and the review Sherry linked, has brought the book back into focus for me. I thought the description of the two childhood summers was superb.


message 12: by Steve (last edited Dec 16, 2007 04:21PM) (new)

Steve It is so much easier to write negative things about a novel then positive.

Let me start with the positive. Ms. Drabble can wield the English language with authority. I found her prose a pleasure to read. And she did move me along with that prose. I finished this novel, after all, because Ms. Drabble had me convinced with some truly evocative language that something really interesting was going to happen eventually. There was a pleasurable anticipation. Therein lies the rub, however.

I am not some dumb-assed American male who requires that all of his entertainments be suffused with action. I can enjoy a character-driven novel every bit as much as I can a plot-driven novel. Honest. I can. But this one ultimately fell short on both counts.

As far as the plotting is concerned, the book reminded me of an American friend’s description of watching European football (soccer to me): “Something’s going to happen! Something’s going to happen! Something’s going to happen! . . . . . . . . .nothing happened.” The tension of the plot was this simple. When Ailsa and Humphrey finally meet again, would she be mean to him? The answer turns out to be no, she was not mean to him.

“Geez!,” I sez to myself. “Is that really all?”

I had my heart set on some really torrid sex scenes involving old people at the end. Ms. Drabble did a journeyman-like job on those early sex scenes, as Jane has pointed out. We really are overdue for a novel with some really good sex between old people. Still didn’t get it here though.

Insofar as character is concerned, I agree with Jim that Humphrey’s was pretty well drawn. We have a nice portrait of a man in early old age inventorying his life and its shortcomings, irrationally hating the successful Arnold Moule, pondering what might have been—all that stuff. The problem is there really was no development. Nothing happened to him, other than Ailsa ultimately was not mean to him, and he did not change or develop in any way.

And in the end was he not a real wimp? Why did he not simply resolve that if Ailsa is mean to him, he would tell her to go screw herself? (Although that would be like suggesting more coal for Newcastle as far as this woman was concerned. More about her later. I’ve written too much already for one posting.)

Steve W.

message 13: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim I guess it could have been more dramatic, but I saw a little more development to Humphrey than Steve did. At the beginning he was headed into senility with Mrs. Hornby looking after everything.

"He was a lucky man to be so carefully minded. He had led, of recent years, a protected life. He had retreated into his shell."

By the end, he is looking at new options.

"He will continue like a guilty thief to avoid any reference to the parethyroid hormones of fish. But there is still time for a comforting dinner at the Dolphin (with Ailsa), where he had first stretched out his hand towards her, and seen a glimpse of the long journey ahead of them. The journey draws to its end, but it is not over yet."

Maybe the torrid sex scenes will show up in Sea Lady II.

message 14: by Steve (new)

Steve Jim, your point is well-taken. I guess that is the kind of subtle character development that 60-year-olds must settle for. . . . . . . . actually, that’s not fair. It’s not subtle at all and has a great deal to do with survival. Again, good point.

Ailsa. I was puzzled by this character. I passages early on about The Room were interesting. That reminded me of the room in the Chinese section of Saigon in The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras, although that room was on the other end of the neatness spectrum. This room is maintained by a woman though.

And her great figure and all these slinky dresses. Shouldn’t we have been spending a lot more time in the gym with her than we did? I don’t know. Did anyone else encounter a problem with accepting Ailsa as a truly plausible character?

I have questions concerning all this business about hermaphrodites. What the hell is going on there?

And the riddle of Diophantus. And the Children’s Encyclopedia. I thought those plot devices or metaphors or whatever were asked to character a lot more freight than they were capable of.

I haven’t even gotten to the Public Orator.

Steve W.

Mary Ellen I'll start with the Public Orator. Had I known that "public orator" is a position at British universities, like "vice chancellor" I would have read this book -- or at least those PO sections -- differently. By the time I figured it out, when Humphrey was reading through the program, I think, I was too far along in reading the book, and not enough "hooked" on it, to go back to re-read all those sections. As it was, I, too, thought the Public Orator was supposed to be an omniscient being, maybe a stand-in for the author, and it seemed a grandiose and ominous device.

So my incorrect interpretation then set me up, like Steve, to await something BIG happening at the university. Finding out that Sandy was gay (and the Public Orator to boot) just wasn't enough of a punch.

I also don't understand why Sandy was so determined to get Humphrey and Ailsa together, unless because his life has otherwise become so boring he needs this slightly malicious (ok, more-than-slightly malicious) diversion to keep him going.

I enjoyed Drabble's writing, and agree that the characters were very real. But nothing in the book appeals to me strongly.

Mary Ellen

message 16: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Aisla is an unlikely character to be sure, and the passionate affair with the marine biologist seemed equally unlikely.

Then I think about the all purpose public authorities in the world: Oprah, Martha, Camille Paglia, or the late Norman Mailer. They are all very unlikely characters. What did they do that makes them authorities on so many topics? And if you are one of them, what must run through your head? The ungenerous would suggest rampant egotism. I suspect public figures are a little more amused and puzzled by their universal authority than to take it as a right.

In any case, Ailsa was an interesting try at penetrating the phenomenon.

message 17: by Steve (last edited Dec 19, 2007 09:11AM) (new)

Steve Mary Ellen, you captured my own initial reaction to the Public Orator precisely.

The Public Orator was a really courageous attempt by Lady Drabble, but I don't think it works out exactly as she had hoped.

Jim, your comments have motivated me to go back and take another look at Aisla. She is somewhat of an Oprah/Martha figure, isn't she?

message 18: by Mary Ellen (last edited Dec 20, 2007 01:48PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mary Ellen I thought of Ailsa as a cross between Madonna and Camille Paglia!


Regarding Humphrey, I was surprised to learn that he was in his 60s. I'd expected him to be much older. So I figured his psychological fragility would be explained (as well as frequent references to Ailsa's feelings of guilt about their affair) by some horrible, terrible thing Ailsa did to him, some act of rejection. I was surprised anew to read that their affair kind of sputtered out (and unfortunately, they married as it was in its early sputter stages) and its demise the result of apparently mutual waning passion and incompatibility.

I suppose that this was precisely Drabble's point, how our minds twist and exaggerate and conflate and otherwise misshape a lot of our memory of the past.

Mary Ellen

Barbara I spent 2 hours today plunked in my favorite chair with my favorite reading light and finished this book. I agree with Steve that this is not the love story of people in their 60's that it was touted to be. However, after I finished, I started looking at the title again, the book jacket, etc. and I realized that it was the reviewers who classified it that way, not Drabble and not even her publisher.

I think it's more about regret and making choices than anything else. What happens when we look back at our blunders through life and can we revisit them?

I thought Drabble did a good job with both Humphrey and Aisla's characters. I've been doing a lot of thinking about Aisla. She was such a narcissistic, egocentric person. It would have been easy to draw her as evil. Instead, Drabble gives us a complex character who hurts others, pays (probably less than she should) for her mistakes and yet has a life force that is very attractive to me.

There are lots of little details there that I think I missed though. Where does it imply that the Public Orator is gay? And, who is P.B. Wilton, the character who shows up at the funeral? Also, are we supposed to assume that Marina is gay since she shows up with her partner at the funeral?

And, btw, I thought that the character of Marina was essential. I kept wishing that she had been developed a bit more. It seems pretty common to me that the children of outsized personalities don't do well or are, at the least, somewhat the reverse of their parents.

And, did you think that Drabble tried to cram in too much at the end? The Sandy character just didn't fit with the boy that she painted him to be in the first part of the story.

message 20: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth Good comments, Barb. I, too, had a hard time reconciling the young Sandy and the old.


Mary Ellen Barbara, IIRC, Sandy tells Ailsa, Humphrey & Dame Mary McWhatever his life story, including his coming out as a gay man. And he is the university's Public Orator. I kind of equated him with the "Public Orator" referred to throughout the book, but I think others disagree with that.

I experienced a disconnect between the young Sandy and the kind of creepy older Sandy (manipulating Ailsa & Humphrey for his own amusement, it seemed). But of course, we get the young Sandy only from Humphrey's point of view, and he may have idealized him as his only friend. The young Sandy then left the young Humphrey in the dust for Ailsa's brother, he traded sex with the mechanic for the fish tank (willingly, by his own account), etc. In Sandy's telling of the tale (which also might not be accurate!), the young & old Sandy are more of a piece.

Mary Ellen

message 22: by Barbara (last edited Dec 27, 2007 01:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Mary Ellen, I understood that Sandy was gay, but I didn't think that he and the Public Orator were one and the same.

I thought that Humphrey acted much older than he was too. In my 20's, I might have thought that a man in his 60's would behave like that. But, after just passing my own 60th birthday, I would have guessed that he was much older. However, I think his life had defeated him. He began as a curious, idealistic little boy with an enduring love for things of the sea. Then, he had to deal with the politics and reality of the academic climb. And, he could never quite get the hang of relationships. Ailsa, on the other hand, has the attitude of a younger person, despite her physical description when she changed into her swimming suit. My first thought is that perhaps just being egocentric can keep you young but she also didn't let her defeats slow her down.

Mary Ellen Barb, I wish I had re-read the Public Orator sections to figure out whether Sandy-the-Public-Orator was THE Public Orator.

I agree that Humphrey was defeated by life. He began to change who he was to be accepted very young, then his "changes" didn't gain acceptance from the most important person in his life...

Mary Ellen

Sherry I assumed the two Public Orators were the same. I can't imagine Drabble would trick us with having two of them. What would be the point?

message 25: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth I assumed they were the same, too. After all,
Sandy was behind the scene pulling the strings all the time, why shouldn't he be commenting too?


Barbara I just read Ursula LeGuin's review in The Guardian and she seems to agree with you about Sandy and the Public Orator being one and the same. I just kept thinking that there were too many things that Sandy couldn't have known about, that he couldn't have been that omniscient.

And, I need to correct my earlier assertion that Drabble and her publisher were not characterizing this as a romance between people in their 60's. I just realized that she subtitled it A Late Romance. That's not on the cover, but on the title page inside. So, my bit of a beef on this subject is with her as well.

Barbara BTW, I am very impressed with the insight of LeGuin's review in the Guardian. Thanks for posting it, Sherry. In case anyone missed it, here is the link again:

message 28: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Hart Hmm. I bought this for myself for Christmas hoping to come in late to the discussion. I started it in the bookstore and didn't like it very much, but was willing to go along. Now, after reading the discussion, I think I'll pass & return it for something else. Also, I never knew that there were whole other discussions happening somewhere other than the discussions page! I feel stupid.

What does 'IIRC' mean?

Dottie I have barely begun this one as I just picked it up from the library yesterday afternoon and I'm already enjoying it very much -- Sarah trade it in and check out a copy so I will have someone to talk to -- hee-hee.

And what do you mean about whole other discussions happening elsewhere? Since we arrived on goodreads we have done discussions on the book icon at the bottom of the CR group page. I think if there are other discussions on goodreads their links also will be in the list of discussions where the CR discussion thread is listed. Is that what you mean?

IIRC means if I recall correctly.

Sherry Thanks for asking what IIRC means, Sarah. I was feeling a bit stupid myself. I will make sure to put a link on the other part of the board to direct people to the discussions "under the book icon." These are easy to miss.

message 31: by Steve (new)

Steve I am so happy to see this discussion pick up again. You folks are discussing the subject that had me flummoxed--that damned Public Orator. It surely did not strike me as Sandy all the way through. Initially, the tone of voice was much too oracular for Sandy. Truly did have a Greek chorus sound about it.

Sheila I'm being driven slowly made by this one and am struggling to finish it. Like others have mentioned the PO is infuriating me every time
(s)he pops up. I understand what Drabble is trying to do but it just doesn’t seem to work for me. Perhaps it will in the end. By the way even though I went to UK universities I never came across this role, I don't ever recall there being one in my days.

Anyway at the third attempt I’m just over half way through. At the risk of repeating what others have said, I loved the passages on childhood but I can’t stand the adult characters, although she makes a good job of drawing Humphrey.

I’ll get back to it tomorrow and try to finish it off, but if this had been a physical copy it would have just gone back to the library! It is just not my cup of tea! And the only other Drabble I read I loved – The Seven Sisters about a woman who builds a new life for herself in her later years – so I will persevere and I’m enjoying reading everyone else thoughts on this.

message 33: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Hart Dottie, I'm sure I missed it because at the beginning of our habitation here, I was in a bit of a snit at having to learn how to navigate a new site and not having "Mark as Read" functions etc that were so helpful in our last place. I'm sure that's when I missed the fact that even though we have a discussion thread under Reading List or Classics Corner with what looks like discussion about the book in question, there is another actual place (the book icon on the Bookshelf) where the discussion does indeed take place. Perhaps I haven't read a selection with you folks since we've switched. That's entirely possible. At any rate, I've got it now (and I'm well over my snit!). I'll find my way for future selections. I'm afraid that won't include the Drabble. Too much else I'm really excited about.

message 34: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth At first I thought the Public Orator was the authorial voice--kind of an aside to her readers. After a while when that, for one reason or another, became less plausible, I was flummoxed. But at the end, I was sure it had been Sandy all along.

Now, after Steve's remark about the Greek chorus, I'm beginning to even question that.

What do you think Drabble's (what an unfortunate name, sounds like drab and rabble) purpose was in using the PO?


Barbara If you still have your copy of The Sea Lady, the introduction of the Public Orator is on page 40. Drabble has introduced both Humphrey and Ailsa in the present. And, the PO section opens by saying:

The Public Orator pauses here, to take stock of what has happened so far. The Orator, a withdrawn, black-gowned, hooded, neuter, neutral and faceless figure, confronts choice. The Orator, at this point, is presented with too many choices.

This definitely sounds, to me, like a separate being, sort of the god of something, not plot because later it says that he/she "disdains the primary vulgarity of plot."

Then, later on page 79, reference to the PO returns and says that he has access to the details of memory that Ailsa and Humphey have forgotten, such as the price of things. This would seem to refer to Sandy and the diary that his mother kept. But, later in that section, the PO is diverting his attention from Humphrey in Coach G and keeping track of Ailsa who is coming in her own independent way.

It's as if Drabble can't decide if the PO is omniscient or a real live person. And, I have too much respect for her as a writer to believe that is true.

Barbara I'm looking around on the internet trying to find more discussion about this Public Orator device and found this little bit of an interview with Drabble (nothing about the PO, unfortunately) in which she talks about the book as she was writing it. It doesn't feel like a romance as she describes it either. I'm thinking maybe the publisher came up with the subtitle.

What are you working on now?

It's going back to the period of my childhood, and its tracing two characters who knew each other very well, then lost sight of each other, and who meet again when they are very much older and try to make good all the things that went wrong--or maybe they won't make it good. That's the big question of the moment. I know exactly where they are going to meet, and I'm working toward this meeting. And one of them knows they are going to meet, and the other is still unaware. He still hasn't opened his folder to see who's at the conference or who's at the end of the journey. I quite like the idea of how much you rescue a relationship that went very wrong a long time ago. [The characters] are two grown-ups now. They're mature. I was going to call it The Sands of Time, which is quite a nice title. Then I thought I might call it The Sea Lady, because it's about a lot of fish and fish imagery. I love fish, I do. At the moment it's called The Sea Lady in one draft and The Sands of Time in the other.

The interview is at the following site in Writer Magazine:

message 37: by Jane (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jane Barb,

You asked in an earlier post about P.B. Wilton. He shows up in the book on p. 12 of the hardback edition. Ailsa has just given the award to the book HERMAPHRODITE, and she is circulating the room. "But she did not fail to recognize troublemaker P. B. Wilton, the poison pen of the quality press,.." He takes a few "stabs" at Ailsa, and he says that Ailsa's daughter said that Ailsa was a poor babysitter. The daughter told P.B about her girlfriend's mother babysitting and the sperm donor babysitting. So I assume from this exchange that the daughter is a lesbian.


Barbara Thank you, Jane! I haven't taken my copy back to the library yet so I went back and read those pages and am glad I did. He was such a perfectly drawn character to never appear again until the end. I kept thinking that Drabble must know such a person and this gave her the perfect change to skewer him.

I wondered for a moment if it might be possible that Wilton was the Public Orator since he is present at the beginning and at the end. But, he doesn't seem intimately involved enough with the characters to have set it up.

One other thing, in the last paragraph of the book at Dame Mary's funeral:

The Public Orator watches. His role is over, his part is played. From his perch in the gallery he watches Sandy Clegg, his shadow self.

How is he watching Sandy if he is Sandy? And, could Wilton and Sandy together have been the Public Orator?

Since I have time and am on vacation, this is continuing to vex me.

Sherry I think Drabble was just being clever and a little Nabokovian. I think Sandy was the Public Orator and was watching himself (his shadow self) from a different perspective. He was in fact his own doppelganger. But, you're right, it doesn't make much sense. And it makes even less sense for anybody else to be the PO. I think that's why LeGuin thought Drabble should have just omitted that part, and I think she was right.

Barbara I've just found a great site that links to multiple reviews about a book (I'll post about it in the CR folder) and no one has any more insight about the PO than we do. Most people agree that it was a person from the past which I read to mean Sandy. And, no one likes this device.

One review mentioned that the Winton character was probably based on L.P. Hartley, a novelist who was born in 1895 and died in 1972. According to Wikipedia:

Until the success of The Go-Between he counted as a somewhat snobbish minor writer. He did, however, receive a measure of recognition in being awarded the 1947 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Eustace and Hilda and later through the CBE he was awarded in 1956.

message 41: by Steve (last edited Dec 31, 2007 08:04AM) (new)

Steve Now that you have mentioned it, Jane, all these multiple, multiple references to hermaphrodites was downright weird in my estimation.

I don't have anything against hermaphrodites, mind you. Some of my best friends are hermaphrodites. It's just that the author seemed to be singling them out for special attention. If I were a hermaphrodite, that would make me uncomfortable, I'm sure.

message 42: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Going back to the main theme, aren't we really looking at nostalgia rather than late romance? The characters are focused on recapturing some moment in the past or reversing a loss.

If they actually tried to develop a relationship, it would have to be a new relationship based on who they are now and not that passionate couple from years ago. Most people are not the object of desire in their 60s that they were in their 20s, my wife and present company excepted, of course.

Barbara Steve, some of the British reviews I read of this book got really sick of all of her aquatic references. I'm surprised that they didn't bring up the hermaphrodite ones. Do you think she is referencing that so much because she's examining gender differences a bit? Some of the reviews made the point that she's gotten away from that subject in recent books and is back to it now.

Jim, I liked what Drabble said in her interview below about creating two characters "...who meet again when they are very much older and try to make good all the things that went wrong--or maybe they won't make it good." Is it nostalgia when you wonder if you can correct your mistakes? Of course, you can't do it but maybe you can make them hurt a little less.

Dottie I'm not finding the PO at all troublesome as yet but I'm only about halfway through.

This section struck me:

The Orator, following the outline of the story, trying to find the thread through the story, percieves that at this point there could yet have been many outcomes. Up to this point in the journey, no irrevocable decisions have been made, no fatal mistakes embedded. Humprhey Clark is still an innocent. His heart is pure.

From this point on, chance and choice each play a part. If the story were unravelled to this point, to this knot, and then rewoven, it could be rewoven in many patterns. But we have to follow the facts. We cannot unweave, and remake. For chance and choice happen. They coincide, they coalesce, they mix, and then their joint outcome grows as hard and as fixed as cement. Like a fossil in stone, it hardens, in its own indisoluble, immutable shape.

I found this to speak very much to the theme of age. While through childhood and beyond to a cerain point leads one to a path -- or paths but once past that point, once a path is taken and the choices which follow take a person from one point in life to the next how easily it happens that the person's life is frozen into an unchangeable prison with "its own indisoluble, immutable shape".

The choices are taken either willingly or by one's own supposedly free thought or they may come about as simply not choosing. They may also happen simply as chance encounters or moments which point a person's life off into a new direction without his actually choosing to take that path.

And just a bit later in that same PO section:

It is hard, it is hard.

Is this the story that the Orator must tell?

If this is the story, then it must be told, for there is some honour left in the honest telling.

This sounds almost as though it's about somehow telling one's story or the story that one knows no matter how difficult it is to sort out choice from chance -- self from other or truth from delusion -- to sort out where the pattern solidified or where the pattern went wrong.
Haven't we all wished to unravel things back to a certain point and change the pattern?

Humphrey is solidified even at this point in the book. Ailsa seems to have remained fluid and yet is also static as she heads to the university presentation where she knows they will meet. She may be looking to unravel things to reweave the patterns she has formed. Sandy is for me as yet the unknown factor in this story.

I'll be back when I have either finished or come up with more random thinking.

message 45: by Barbara (last edited Jan 04, 2008 05:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara I keep checking this discussion and, this morning, I was rewarded by finding your note, Dottie. Those are important quotes. I can't decide how much I agree with them. I suppose the question is how much can we change the results of our choices? One of the reasons that Humphrey seems old is that he is defeated by his choices. Ailsa continues thinking that everything is possible. Even though, Ailsa is, in many ways, the more unlikeable character, she was the most interesting to me.

Sherry Humphrey seems defeated by his choices, but also by dread. He is so afraid of meeting Ailsa and being ...what... cut down? reprimanded? Obviously his past relationship carries a lot of angst with it, mostly because of his secrecy. That kind of fear seems like the kind that can be unraveled and reworked. I think one of the themes is evolution, personal evolution as opposed to the larger kind. We have talked so much about the PO, that we seem to have neglected a lot of the other issues.

message 47: by Ruth (last edited Jan 04, 2008 10:05AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth ut we have to follow the facts. We cannot unweave, and remake. For chance and choice happen. They coincide, they coalesce, they mix, and then their joint outcome grows as hard and as fixed as cement. Like a fossil in stone, it hardens, in its own indisoluble, immutable shape.

While this may very well be the central theme of the book and may very well be true, do we need the PO to feed this to us? If we do, then either we are failing as readers or the writer is failing as a writer.

I think the theme of the book should arise from the book without its being spelled out for us. Things mean much more to us if we are involved in figuring them out. Otherwise we're just being preached at.

Sherry I tend to agree with you, Ruth. It almost seemed like padding to me, to stretch out the time while Humphrey is on the train going to the meeting.

Barbara Ah, Ginnie, from now on I post links! I don't want to miss your contributions next time. And, since you're here now, what did you think of Ailsa and Humphrey as characters?

I had the sense that the academic convocation came from Drabble's past, just like the P.B. Wilton character, but it's good to have the accuracy confirmed. I spend my days in a classroom with small children so my experience with academia is limited.

message 50: by Ruth (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ruth You mean there's a chance we may turn you into a fiction-reader yet, Ginnie?


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