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The Middle Ground Mass Market Paperback – January 30, 1989
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Kate Armstrong has reached thst point in her life. The mother of three children, she feels that men are impossible, and yet: "They (she and her ex lover)would gaze at one another forever, good friends perhaps, old allies, old enemies,across this impossible void...trying new voices, new gestures, making true efforts to hear, to listen, to understand.But hopelessly, hopelessly. Admit defeat....men and women can never be close. They can hardly speak to one another in the same language.But are compelled forever, to try, and therefore even in defeat there is no peace." (P 236).
She looks back on the frustrations of a stultifying upbringing; she copes in the present with the difficulties of her complicated life in London in the 1980's; and when we leave her she's sitting on her bed, wondering what to wear, excitedly anticipating a party to which too many people have been invited, at which things can, and probably will, go wrong.She is bravely facing an unknown future, and this reader, for one, feels emboldened by her example in this wonderful, life-affirming novel.
It is about an English woman who is somewhat 'hip', of lower class origins, who has finally made it. There is a lot of character analysis of her, along with her friends and lovers and their intermingling lives. The book is fun and very readable.
Kate, a journalist, sees her job changing and maybe going away; she has been a writer of pieces about women, their problems and how society is wronging them. She had a liaison for many years with the husband of her best friend, with the blessings of said friend, as said friend didn't want to have sex with the man any longer. That's over now. Her children have grown up and no longer need her. What is next for her? What is next for her friends, who are also at changing points in their lives?
While mainly about the changes of middle age, this novel was written from a feminist viewpoint in the era when so many authors were writing feminist novels. Thankfully, this one has men who are not all selfish idiots. Well, her ex-lover is a selfish idiot, but the others aren't. Everyone in this story is flawed but with a basic core of decency and respect for others; this is not a book of good and evil caricatures but of realism. The book follows them as they go about their everyday live, lives full of the same pains, problems and joys we all share. Though far from being Drabble's best work, `Middle Ground' is a warm paean to friendship and survival.