It is the story of Humphrey Clark and Ailsa Kelman, now in their sixties and traveling--separately--to receive honorary degrees from a university in Ornemouth, a town on the North Sea. They met in Ornemouth when they were children, spent one summer together along with a local boy, Sandy Clegg, and Ailsa's brother, Tommy. It was that kind of summer which, however brief, has a bearing on the rest of one's life. Humphrey Clark's introduction to the sea sets him on his career path. Newly minted personalities were coming into being, the cruelty of children was all around, every moment was writ large in the minds of all of them, especially Humphrey.
Now, more than 50 years have passed and both Ailsa and Humphrey are reminiscing--Ailsa, typically, on an airplane, and Humphrey, just as typically, on a train. Their accounts of the last 50-plus years are unsparing, recounting their successes and failures, the places where their lives intersected and the results of those meetings, their professional and personal lives--all that has brought them to this day. Their memories are attenuated through the prism of their individual differences of temperament and interests. Humphrey is an innocent and a bit of a plodder, having made his name as a marine biologist, while Ailsa, the feminist, is a wild card: "Ailsa Kelman lacks method, but what she lacks in method she makes up for in energy and originality and output and panache." They could not be more different, but when did that ever stand in the way of connection? They have been brought to this ceremony by Sandy Clegg, now Alistair Macfarlane, whose own story is worth knowing.
The sea and its creatures are the metaphors that inform the story and at the end, we see that this meeting between Ailsa and Humphrey is "a journey of purification." This is Drabble at her very best. --Valerie Ryan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What a waste of a Sunday! Self-indulgent writing that draws you out of the story at every turn. As if Drabble did not want us to like or care about anyone. Read morePublished 23 months ago by IslandReader
When two distinguished guests are invited to a special ceremony, they will be meeting for the first time in three decades. Read morePublished on July 31, 2010 by Laurel-Rain Snow
I read a lot of Margaret Drabble's novels in the 70's and 80's and then stopped because I didn't have the same leisure to read and/or she wasn't high on the authors I most... Read morePublished on April 28, 2009 by readernyc
For readers who prefer a strong dose of facts with their fiction, Margaret Drabble's The Sea Lady will not disappoint. Read morePublished on November 8, 2008 by Elisabeth Harvor
I had never read a Margaret Drabble novel before. Picked this up at a bookstore, read the first three pages, was hooked. Because of the language. Read morePublished on June 27, 2008 by Lawrence A. Schenbeck
Drabble's style is a flow of words, a piling on of words, a cornucopia of words. The words might be about an event, a character, sex, or cultural or scientific ideas (and she... Read morePublished on October 16, 2007 by algo41
Perhaps I am missing something...and I admit I quit reading this after about 30 pages...but I simply could not continue. It was so disjointed and boring! Read morePublished on August 23, 2007 by Lee Hood
I persevered in reading this book and finished it last night and wondered why I bothered. The main female character, Aisla, is so unlikable that except for sex I don't know why... Read morePublished on August 1, 2007 by Eleanor Arlene