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The Needle's Eye Paperback – Bargain Price, October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"Though I have admired Miss Drabble's writing for years, I will admit that nothing she has written in the past quite prepared me for the depth and richness of this book." -Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times

"The Needle's Eye is that rare thing, a book one wishes were longer than it is."-The New York Review of Books

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"THE NEEDLE'S EYE is that rare thing, a book one wishes were longer than it is."


Rose Vassiliou and Simon Camish meet at a friend's dinner party. He's a barrister in a loveless marriage, she's divorced, but her ex-husband is now demanding custody. Rose vows to win the savage custody battle to keep her children and needs Simon to help her. Yet as they become emotionally involved, Rose feels Simon could jeopardize her chances... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156029359
  • ASIN: B003E7EWIM
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,634,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Noel J. Pinnington on November 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. It may be that it's genesis was a formula: a bright man from a deprived background fulfills his mother's ambitions by going to Oxford and having a legal career, and seeks to escape the pressure of his background by marrying someone who symbolizes freedom from social and financial anxiety; he meets a woman not particularly bright, from a wealthy background whose parents had no interest in her, who suffers from having been subject to embittered and puritanical servants, who gives away her money, marries someone who symbolizes social stigma, in search of values independent of financial and social ones. He sticks to his unhappy marriage, is free of anxiety, but seems to have virtually no pleasure in other people including his children. She divorces her husband and lives in squalor, but loves her children and finds great pleasure in her lower class friends and neighbours.
The reason this formulaic starting point works out so well is two-fold. First, the author sets these people into real places and times, which are vividly recognizable, an incredibly richly described, closely observed world. Second, the events that unfold are anything but formulaic, rather they are allowed to follow their own logic, as the author's imagination dictates. There is a considerable if restrained reporting of the inner lives of the two main characters, and that is probably hard going for some readers, but as things progress, the characters deepen, becoming more vivid, convincing and charming. The contrast between what the reader knows of the characters' thoughts and what they surmise about each others inner lives is particularly interesting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Philip Spires on August 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Needle's Eye by Margaret Drabble is at one level a story of two marriages, the Vassiliou and the Camish. Its focus is on two characters, Rose Vassiliou and Simon Camish who, even at their first meeting, find themselves inexorably drawn to one another.

Rose Bryanston was brought up in an upper middle class English family. The rambling country house in Norfolk figures large towards the end of the book when Rose and Simon make an unscheduled weekend visit to her parents. Rose has married Christopher Vassiliou, of Greek origin, and has settled near Alexandra Palace in north London. They have three children and have separated. Rose has also inherited and has given the money away, taking to heart the Bible's advice on rich men and the eyes of a needle. Perhaps that's why Christopher has left her. They are squabbling over the children, as one would expect when rational people, so capable in the area of analysis and reason, apply their powers selfishly.

Simon Camish is a specialist on labour relations and trade unions. He is also a writer and is co-authoring a book on aspects of his specialism. He is also resident in north London and also has three children of his own. He is married to Julie who, despite everything we are told, does not appear to be the kind of person who would fall for a man whose main interest was trade unionism. Her dismissive materialism is often tinged with a barbed anger.

These characters soon begin to develop their obvious penchant for thought and analysis. They seem to be capable of endless, un-paragraphed free association from almost any starting stimulus and leading to any imagined end. And it soon becomes a process apparently without end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By nobody on February 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm not rating Drabble's novel. I think it's a regular Drabble novel, fully representative of her style. But the edition I read - the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt edition to Kindle devices - is an unacceptable one. It's full of errors. There is a lot of sentences with no punctuation. There is a lot of misspelling words - "Creek" instead of "Greek", "Erst" instead of "first" and so on. I think there isn't a single page without mistakes. It's annoying. It seems an amateurish scanning, using a bad OCR software. I am asking Amazon to exchange this terrible edition for the Penguin edition, which I hope it's better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on October 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
The title of this novel is taken from a saying of Jesus recorded in the New Testament: - "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God". These words were spoken to a wealthy young man who had demurred at the suggestion that he should sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor in order to inherit eternal life. Margaret Drabble's novel, however, is about a woman who has done precisely what that young man was unwilling to do.

Rose Bryanston is an heiress who, on attaining her majority at the age of 21, takes two steps which alienate her from her wealthy parents. Firstly, she marries her Greek-Cypriot boyfriend Christopher Vassiliou, of whom her parents strongly disapprove. Secondly, she disposes of her inherited fortune of £20,000, giving it to build a school in a small African country. (We learn that Rose was born in 1937, so these events would have taken place in 1958, when £20,000 would be worth a great deal more than it would today).

The main part of the story takes place in 1968-69. (Although the novel was written in 1972, the date can be ascertained from references to the pre-decimal currency abolished in 1971 and veiled references to the My Lai massacre and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia). Rose is now divorced from Christopher who proved to be a violent, abusive husband, and is living in relative poverty with her three children in the Hornsey-Muswell Hill area. (In the sixties this was an impoverished, run-down part of North London, although today it is considerably more affluent than it was then). The main policy developments all arise from Christopher's attempts to challenge Rose for custody of the children.
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