2008: 187. The Peppered Moth

“It is a hot summer afternoon, in the hall of a Wesleyan Methodist chapel in South Yorkshire.  Here they gather, the descendants.”

The Peppered Moth, Margaret Drabble

Drabble is one of those authors I kept hearing about (she is, for example, A.S. Byatt’s younger sister) so last time I was at the library I thought I’d give her a go, and grabbed this book off the shelf at random.  The novel made me understand what the fuss was about - Drabble is clearly a writer, but it was also strange and disjointed - it didn’t quite work.  I found it to be a bit puzzling, until I read the afterword and realized that this is her version of her mother’s life, and the strangeness of it was illuminated - there is more going on here than just a story.  It tells of Bessie Bawtry, a bright young girl from a poor Yorkshire family, who is determined to get out, and does - she wins a scholarship to Cambridge.  However, she isn’t really able to escape - she’s hemmed in by her own neuroses - and ends up marrying a local boy and never really living up to her bright promise, as well as becoming somewhat of a miserable woman (though this was more of a tell, don’t show on Drabble’s part - she showed us how Bessie was neurotic, but just told how she made her family miserable).  Telling Bessie’s story along with that of her daughter and granddaughter, Drabble sets her novel up as if it is going to be a literary mystery, but the story that is told isn’t really hidden in anyway, and it isn’t clear why she wrote it the way she did, except my (totally presumptuous) notion that she was trying to uncover her own mystery - why her mother was the way she was - and didn’t realize that her own characters didn’t really have as much to hide.  I am intrigued to read more of her works, but I don’t think The Peppered Moth is really a success.


Date/Place Completed: 12/13/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017