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The Peppered Moth (2002)

The Peppered Moth (2002)
3.32 of 5 Votes: 2
0156007193 (ISBN13: 9780156007191)
mariner books
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The Peppered Moth (2002)
The Peppered Moth (2002)

About book: After reading the first third of this book, I was left feeling quite angry and patronised about a narrative fictional account of working class life in South Yorkshire, England. As Yorkshire (and South Yorkshire itself) is my birthplace and former neck of the woods, I felt angry that lives, be they working class and difficult, should be portrayed on paper so dismally and without hope. I was also angry that these lives were being implicitly compared, contrasted and ultimately lambasted against academic life in Cambridge. Well, it’s chalk and cheese or black and white and DAMN, I thought, more English class stereotypes being paraded and abused on paper. DAMN, I thought again closing the pages in rage. Maybe though, this was Drabble’s point and intention all along. Maybe this was the social commentary she wanted to make to keep us on the ball.After the first third or so, Drabble continues a disjointed narrative over characters and timeframes and explores overriding themes of womanhood, birthright and emotional inheritance spanning over a total of four generations and explores loosely yet constructively the question of even if you leave your hometown and social background, do they or can they ever leave you? I say a ‘disjointed’ narrative but this is weirdly something that ends up as a positive writing feature. The journey that Drabble takes you on may be fairly rollercoaster and a little bumpy in places but the sights that you see from the window are tremendous. By the end of the journey, I felt that Drabble has made me ask many questions of my own route in life and I could empathise with the three female protagonists – grandmother, daughter and granddaughter – thus.Drabble’s writing is extremely fluid and easy to follow and she uses subtle humour as well as light and heavy sarcasm to illustrate life’s little ironies. Towards the end of the book, I was jubilant to see that, through time, my home county had been painted more prosperously and that life’s simple pleasures - nature, innocence and even romance - could be found within her boundaries. Time had moved her from stifling to inviting by the time the novel had run its course and the shift from ‘soot to suitable’ certainly suited me fine. Drabble is a brave writer with characterisation and I would say she knows her subjects well. She writes in something of a feminist tone and most of her ladies are formidable if only quietly, independently and subtly to themselves. Almost certainly, all of them are influenced with the idea of escape and very few choose to stay rooted or stagnant for very long.I would recommend this book to any lover of well-written and clever ‘thinking’ fiction. Those who seek message and inference through their reading will not be disappointed. Reading the first part of this book certainly did it no justice at all but, by me plodding on, I found this book turned itself around and was certainly worth sticking with right until the end. Even better than that, it delighted me and I fully look forward to reading some more of Drabble again. May the moth fly once more and remember, as they say in the white rose county of Yorkshire, “where there’s muck there’s brass”.

Margaret Drabble's "The Peppered Moth" is a fascinating exploration of family, heredity, genetics, and the history that links family members.In the beginning, we meet a group of people interested in learning about their heritage. A scientist heads up the meeting, and is prepared to take DNA samples of the various participants.We then move back and forth, between the past and present, exploring the primary characters from their childhoods to adulthood...and beyond.Bessie Bawtry escaped her ordinary background—for a time, anyway—when she earned a Cambridge scholarship. She struggles to free herself from the family she left behind. However, she does end up marrying her hometown boyfriend Joe Barron. The reader has to wonder about this she really trying to escape her beginnings? And will she escape her family history or is she destined to repeat it?After their marriage, her husband goes to war, leaving her to care for their two children all alone. When he returns, their differences become very apparent. Their troubled marriage must make each of them wonder about their choices.Years later, though, their granddaughter Faro Gaulden, is amongst those seeking answers to their heritage. It would seem that things have come full circle, as she is trying to understand the very issues that plagued her grandmother. And she, too, struggles with choices that seemingly fly in the face of what she needs.As I read this tale, I sometimes found myself bogged down...even confused, at times; sometimes the details bored me, as I wondered what was the point of it all.But then toward the end, I regained my interest and the story moved more smoothly. Even the book's title made sense at one point, as one of the characters has an "internal monologue" about a moth species that has "darkened" with mutations; the "peppered moth"—almost an analogy for the genetic programming of the human characters.Despite the fact that the book seemed to "drag" for me, at times, it was definitely a worthwhile read, which is why I'm granting it 4 stars. Probably 4.5.
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The Peppered Moth is a tale about three generations of a family from a small coal-mining town in Yorkshire. It had so much potential, but Drabble's style is very annoying in that she tells you what you just read after you read it. The plot doesn't develop; she tells the reader what they are supposed to observe. The beginning was so slow I almost quit. Example: "We now see the character shrug and turn away" rather than "Faro shrugged and turned away." The story improved a bit in the middle and end, but the pace never did quicken.
The book jacket says "This book fairly bounces. Its zest derives in a large part from the perfectly sustained tone, which expresses humor without poking fun, and deep regret without sentimentality." I disagree, whole-heartedly! For me, this book dragged terribly, without direction, without any clear theme. Finally, about 2/3 of the way through, the characters and theme began to take shape, and I finished it. Can't say I'll choose another by this author any time soon. I will admit there were 3-4 clever situations and smile-worthy plot twists or dialogue interchanges. But when my husband would ask, "So, what's this book about?" I'd have to answer, "I'm not sure."
I have read and really liked most of Drabble's books. But I could not convince myself to like this one. Throughout I couldn't decide if she,as writer, really liked any of the characters because her narrative was sometimes negative, sometimes just a little less negative. She seemed to be exploring whether personal unpleasantness is genetic or acquired through (lack of) nurture. I was disappointed to learn this was based upon her mother but with many changes; as if she were trying to work out how she feels about her mother and family by imposing a slow moving, unpleasant story on her readers.
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