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The Sea Lady Paperback – Bargain Price, May 12, 2008
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Initially, I was impatient with the slow pace of the second chapter, and I also found the Public Orator to be intrusive and unnecessary. I wanted
Humphrey and Ailsa to get together more quickly than they did. However, once I trusted the author, and was
able to read the novel on its own terms, I began to like it better and better. I realized the value of the Public Orator only at the end of the novel when I knew more about him.
Although I am not especially interested in fish, the descriptions
of them also grew on me. I liked
the sea squirts who were born with
spines, and then lost them over time.
I liked the spiffy fish who apparently committed suicide,
rather than remaining confined in a tank.
I liked the depictions of childhood,
and of approaching old age, and the
theme of how to come to terms with
one's life after most of it is over.
I found The Sea Lady to be surprisingly reassuring.
(Sorry about the wretchedly irregular
lines. This is the best my computer
could do -- and I tried.)
The Sea Lady is the compressed life story of several children who meet one or two summers shortly after World War II vacationing on the seashore of England near the border with Scotland on the North Sea. Two, Ailsa and Humphrey, meet again later in life, fall in love and marry, divorce, etc. Then meet yet again in their sixties, etc., etc. All the children turn out to be famous or wealthy as adults; all are successful, miserable, lonely, aging or aged now in 2006 (the story is told seamlessly with flashbacks).
Drabble is a fine writer with a sensitive simple style that is very similar to Ian McEwan's but without the twisted, dark tones of McEwan. Although nothing happens in the novel, there is no violence, little lurid sex, or anything else of moment, I found it gripping and enjoyable. This is life, a mirror for us aging academics.Read more ›
in fact, i wondered, on beginning TSL, if i'd even bother to see it thru to the end. if i were still in my 20s, i might not have persevered. but see it thru i did, and i'm delighted to have done so.
TSL is indeed a slowish sort of novel, not for the impatient or the very young, but a novel so full of glimmering insights--about relationships, about growing old, about love, sex, culture, and anything else one might care to seek insights about--and dazzling language that i felt renewed and positively weepy upon finishing it (5 minutes ago!).
so, perhaps not for everyone, but very much for me. thank you, margaret drabble.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 on May 5, 2013 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