When Candida Wilton arrives alone in London, divorced and rejected and without much money, she is filled with a strange sense of excitement. What can happen, at her age, to change her fortunes? How will she adjust to this shabby, violent, yet curiously attractive city? When Candida starts writing her diary, she expects that she will fill it with the small events with which she pads out her empty life, but she has always had a secret belief that despite all she is a lucky person. And she is, in a sense, right, for when an unexpected windfall brings her sudden riches, her horizons broaden: she will start, she thinks, with a trip abroad...
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It's hard to get across just how flat-out thrilling, how readable, how absorbing is Margaret Drabble's novel The Seven Sisters. It sounds positively dull when you describe it: Candida Wilton, a faculty wife of late middle age, has been dumped by her allegedly do-gooder husband. Her three daughters aren't too impressed with her, either. The mousy Candida decamps to an inglorious flat in London, where she measures out her time in visits to the health club, trips to the grocery store, and her weekly evening class on Virgil. She tentatively makes a few new friends and rediscovers some old ones. This opening section of the book, told in diary form, is a marvel of tone. With very little action, Drabble makes Candida's forays into the world quietly electrifying. One of her new pleasures is recording in her diary her mounting dislike of her ex-husband. You sense a giddy freedom: "Andrew had come to seem to me to be the vainest, the most self-satisfied, the most self-serving hypocrite in England. That kindly twinkle in his eyes had driven me to the shores of madness."
Ah, but there's more life for Candida yet. A small, unexpected inheritance is left to her, and so she organizes her friends--all female, mostly aged, mostly unmarried--into a tour of Naples as Virgil describes it in The Aeneid. Their holiday is a fictional tour-de-force: by turns a hilarious send-up of group dynamics, a metafictional lark, a feminist rant, and a dark acknowledgement of Candida's mortality. In the end, Drabble's novel is a very serious one, and a very good one. --Claire DedererBook Description:
Published in hardcover by Harcourt, 2002, 0-15-100740-3
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