Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Pure Gold Baby

Title: The Pure Gold Baby
Author:  Margaret Drabble
Publication Information:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2013. 304 pages.
ISBN:  0544158903 / 978-0544158900

Book Source:  I read this book because of the intriguing title and description.

Favorite Quote:  “When we look back, we simplify, we forget the sloughs and doubts and backward motions, and see only the shining curve of the story we told ourselves in order to keep ourselves alive and hopeful, that bright curve that led us on to the future. The radiant way.”

Jess is a rising anthropologist in 1960s London. An affair with a married professor leaves Jess pregnant and her life forever changed. Anna is her "pure gold" baby, with "pure gold" being a euphemism for special needs. Anna has a lovely, happy, golden personality. Yet, her needs soon become the center of Jess's world.

What's really odd about this book is that the narrator is not Jess and not Anna. This book is written as a first person narrative through the eyes of one of Jess's friends - another mother she meets in a playgroup for Anna. I am still puzzled by this choice as it creates a distance from the story. It becomes more of a lecture through life.

The book also jumps over huge parts of Anna's life - from playgroup to when she is seven to when she is eleven and placed in a residential facility. The fact that the book wanders off on tangents also adds to this disjointed feel. The narrators speaks about changes over time to their neighborhood, about the definition and treatment of special needs at the time, about Jess's time in Africa, about anthropology, and about many other things. Many of these discussions are repeated several times during the book.

I wandered through the book, skimming through the tangents and the repetitive parts. I walked away confused and with a feeling that I missed the point.

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