Friday, November 8, 2013

Review: The Pure Gold Baby

The Pure Gold Baby
By Margaret Drabble
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013
291 pages
From the library

The Pure Gold Baby

Jessica Spreight is an anthropology student in 1960s London. She is a rising star among her peers, excelling at her work and garnering the praise of her professors. One professor in particular is very taken with her and she ends up having his child. Anna is not a usual baby - she is lovely and always cheerful, but it is clear she will never become a functioning adult. The Pure Gold Baby is an unflinching look at a mother trying to raise her daughter and the community that came together to support them.

I had a really hard time reading this book. The story could be interesting - a single mother trying to raise her child with special needs, but Drabble places the readers at a distinct distance from the characters. The story is narrated not by Jessica or Anna, but by a friend. She relates their story, as well as many of her own, in a flat manner. It almost feels as if we are reading an anthropological study instead of a novel. We learn about the characters, but always from a safe distance.

Nellie states that Jess doesn't know that she is writing down her story. She doesn't think that she will like it or that she will ever ability tell her what she has done. She never states exactly why she felt the impulse to write the details of their lives.That bothered me a lot and as I kept turning the pages, I was waiting to find the impetus for this book. We never find out and I couldn't figure out why the narrator considered it vital or why I should find it important either. 

The book does look at the interesting ways in which society changes over a lifetime. We see the evolution in care for the disabled and the ways that being a wife and mother change and continue to stay the same. I was usually interested, but I was never invested in the characters or what was happening to them. Margaret Drabble is a writer who is respected and revered by many readers and other writers, but I was underwhelmed by The Pure Gold Baby. 


  1. I've seen several reviews mention the distance in this book, and I think that would drive me a little batty! I've long wanted to try Drabble, but I think I'll start with The Red Queen, which is hanging out on my shelves at home. :)

    1. This was the first Drabble book I had heard about. I might have to look into The Red Queen!

  2. Sorry to know that though the book has its moments it was an underwhelming read. The central theme looks quite captivating, but unfortunately, from your review it looks like Drabble hasn't been able to pull it off. This book made me remember an article by Emily Rapp about her son Ronan that I read in the paper sometime back. It was very heartbreaking. Hope your next book is better.