The Gates of Ivory

Margaret Drabble, Author Viking Books $22 (480p) ISBN 978-0-670-84270-4
``Why impose the story line of individual fate upon a story which is at least in part to do with numbers?'' asks Drabble in the middle of her follow-up to The Radiant Way and A Natural Curiosity. Instead of developing a conventional plot, the author casts a tone of irony (as sympathetic as it is subtle) over the daily affairs of Liz Headleand, Alix Bowen and Esther Breuer, the heroines of the previous novels, and synchronizes these with the efforts of Liz's friend Stephen Cox to make art from the unfathomable political holocausts in Cambodia--and with Liz's attempt to locate a vanished Stephen. As if underscoring her development of a form that ``offers not a grain of comfort or repose'' even as it engrosses the reader, Drabble reintroduces characters from The Needle's Eye only to declare that ``they have wandered into this story from the old-fashioned, Freudian, psychological novel, and they cannot mix and mingle.'' What seem mutually exclusive goals are realized: the characters are clear and compelling, objects of particular scrutiny; and the horrors of history are not trivialized by transposition to a tidily wrapped narrative. Drabble's achievement commands awe even as her subject matter rouses immeasurable stores of pity and terror. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1992
Release date: 05/01/1992
Hardcover - 978-0-7710-2862-5
Hardcover - 480 pages - 978-0-14-016603-3
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-7710-2879-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-7710-2861-8
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-14-016719-1
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