Review: The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble

Title: The Pure Gold Baby
Author: Margaret Drabble
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: October 1, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Jessica Speight, a young anthropology student in 1960s London, is at the beginning of a promising academic career when an affair with her married professor turns her into a single mother. Anna is a pure gold baby with a delightful sunny nature. But as it becomes clear that Anna will not be a normal child, the book circles questions of responsibility, potential, even age, with Margaret Drabble’s characteristic intelligence, sympathy, and wit.

The Pure Gold Baby tells the story of Jessica, a single mother of a special needs child, Anna. The book thoughtfully examines friendship, love, motherhood, and aging. The narrator is a friend of Jessica’s, older now and reflecting back on their lives, so we get to see how attitudes in mothering (and especially toward special needs children) have changed throughout the years.

For me, the narrator was an unnecessary, extra layer between Jess and Anna’s story, and me as the reader. The insight she offered into what Jess’s friends thought and felt about her situation was interesting, but… mostly, I just wanted to be enveloped by the story itself, without the narrator’s commentary. I didn’t feel as connected to Jess and Anna’s characters as I maybe should have been. As I wanted to be. There were too many times when my interest waned and I had to struggle to read on.

So I felt torn, because Margaret Drabble’s writing is exquisite! This was my first encounter with her work, and I loved how she presents thoughts and ideas with such breathtaking style:

There was much I could connect with, even though my specific life experiences are very different from Jess’s. Drabble pinpoints emotions and anxieties so many women feel, but which are difficult to express, and she does so with uncanny precision, sensitivity, and finesse.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.