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The Gates of Ivory Paperback – May 1, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (May 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140167196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140167191
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Instead of developing a conventional plot, Drabble's brilliant follow-up to The Radiant Way and A Natural Curiosity casts a tone of sympathetic irony over the daily affairs of her heroines.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is the end of a trilogy, begun by The Radiant Way ( LJ 10/15/87) and A Natural Curiosity ( LJ 7/89), that examines life through the eyes of Liz, Esther, and Alix, three friends who met at Cambridge in the 1950s. In this final novel, Liz appears as a counterpoint to Stephen Cox. Influenced by Conrad and his own work as a novelist, Stephen succumbs to an overwhelming desire to observe first-hand the antithetical world of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. His friends are skeptical, but no one becomes morbidly concerned until the relics of his journey arrive in a package for Liz. A fascinating mystery ensues, one that's sturdy enough to carry the full weight of sobering social commentary and political reportage along with it. Drabble structures the novel around divided narratives, rather than straight chronology, reasserting in the process her abiding interest in the complexities of human experience. A bibliography is included. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/92.
- Janet W. Reit, Univ. of Vermont Lib., Burlington
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Margaret Drabble is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. She has written biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson, and she is the editor of the fifth and sixth editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Kleist on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Margaret Drabble is a literary genius. Her Headeland Trilogy, of which THE GATES OF IVORY is the concluding volume, is one of the great literary accomplishments of the late twentieth century. In it, an entire world--the global village itself--is analyzed, along with its problems, through the eyes and stories of a myriad of engaging, three-dimensional characters.
Because her stories have a substantially feminine focus; because Drabble's prose and work as a whole requires sustained attention to detail in order to perceive the interconnections and ramifications; because her styles of writing aren't as flashy as those of Rushdie (et al.); because she isn't intellectually fashionable (lord knows why); because she's a Brit and not an American; because her sister's less enduring but more popular/academic work sometimes overshadows her own; because she's relentlessly normal as opposed to brash, odd, or glitzy: all these possibilities still do not excuse the reading public as a whole from their general lack of attention to Drabble's stunning accomplishments as a novelist.
Read THE RADIANT WAY, A NATURAL CURIOSITY, and THE GATES OF IVORY and be the first on your block to recognize Drabble as Nobel-prize material!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Gates of Ivory is perhaps Margaret Drabble's most difficult novel because it weaves back and forth between London and Cambodia, between "Good Time" and "Bad Time." However, amidst social commentary, Drabble's humor comes through, and the ending is reminiscent of the ending of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." I cannot do this novel justice in a short, quickly-written review. I can only strongly recommend that you read it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By advance on September 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book out of sequence with the other two back when it was first published. In the time since then I've read about Pol Pot and a lot about Vietnam so when I recently read the books in sequence I understood them in quite a different way. They make a big to do about Drabble and her wit and her party scenes which is ok but from where I sit the books have more to do with the exhaustion of various world views and the pretense of our own personal relationships when we try to make them fit a well worn narrative. Her later works confirm this particularly the Red Queen and the Sea Lady. The Gates of Ivory are, of course, the dreams that are false but again this ancient "either or" solution is a "well worn" narrative device. Drabble, every once and a while, intrudes as a personal wise cracking voice to remind us of just what we are doing reading such a book. While the events of the world today have moved on well beyond Pol Pot we can see that Drabble was right to shuffle the 80s out through the gates of ivory! Don't be like me - read the books in order and you'll get a lot out of them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The Gates of Ivory" is a successful conclusion to Drabble's wonderful Headleand trilogy, although it did not begin as interestingly as the other two books. Stephen Cox, with his "fatal curiosity", is a hard character to pull off, and Drabble does it. Just as Liz Headleand had initially doubted that Porntip was a real person, I initially thought Porntip was over the top, but she grows on you; she instigates a scene in which Liz actually comes across as humorous (the jewelry buying scene).

Bookending the trilogy with the large New Year's Eve party with which it begins, and the large gathering with which it ends, projects an almost musical sense of order - although I would have been happy if Drabble had turned the trilogy into a quartet.

Drabble writes so well there are numerous passages one could quote. I thought the following nicely captures an aspect of travel not often articulated: "He feels himself to be upon the verge of one of those moments of visionary sweetness, of communion with a common purpose, that sometimes comes upon him in strange places ....... In such moments he as observer dissolves and flows away into the daily life of others. He absents himself, and becomes what they are". A more common encounter for us all: "He is bursting with his stories: they spill out of him, popping from him in all directions like festive corks, like bubbles, like burst buttons".
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