Francesca Stubbs holds our hand as we take a walk through old age and death. Fran brings us to drinks with her dear friends, dropping off mouth-watering suppers for Claude, her ex-husband, warm and cosy in his infirmity. She visits her daughter, Poppet, holed up as the waters rise in a sodden West Country, and texts her son Christopher in Lanzarote, as he deals with the estate of his shockingly deceased girlfriend. The questions of what constitutes a good death and how we understand it preoccupy this glittering novel.
The Dark Flood Rises asks momentous questions as it entertains and enthralls. In her beautifully imagined new book, Margaret Drabble is at her incisive best, exploring the end of life with her trademark humour, composure and wisdom.
Dame Margaret Drabble was born in 1939. She is the author of seventeen highly acclaimed novels, including most recently The Pure Gold Baby. She has also written biographies and screenplays, and was the editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature. She was appointed CBE in 1980 and made DBE in the 2008 Honours list.
‘The Dark Flood Rises (the title is taken from a poem by D.H. Lawrence) is not a therapeutic, eschatological, sociological, political or even philosophical novel. Never mind that it can be mistaken for any or all of these. In one way, it is a hymn to an inherited England, to its highways, gardens, streets, hotels, neighborhoods, landscapes, parking lots, stoneworks, cottages, secluded and public spaces…But this humane and masterly novel by one of Britain’s most dazzling writers is something else as well, deeper than mere philosophy: a praisesong for the tragical human predicament exactly as it has been ordained on Earth, our terminal house’ New York Times Book Review
‘A thoughtful and deep book…[Drabble’s] sharp intelligence and the wisdom of her remarkable life are laid out clearly and provokingly here. You could not find a better guide for the final journey.’ Saturday Paper
‘Entertaining and insightful and as far from gloomy as you might expect.’ SA Weekend
‘[Drabble] applies her signature humour, compassion and wisdom to deliberate on what constitutes a good life and a good death, from the viewpoint of the old and the bereaved.’ Best Books of 2016, New Zealand Listener
‘Engaging, informative, thoughtful and smart on detail…Hooray for Margaret Drabble.’ Age
‘What a privilege it is to be able to read and enjoy [Drabble’s] wisdom…to share her thoughts on ageing and dying, put bluntly, without morbidity, and leavened by humour and an obvious enjoyment in engaging in her favourite occupation.’ Otago Daily Times
‘[A] supremely wise novel...It’s a quiet epic...Drabble’s intricate mosaic of observation, meditation, and affectionate humour suggests that if there are answers, they lie in small things. Call no man happy until he dies, goes the old saying: but perhaps the odd moment of happiness can be enough.’ Australian Book Review
‘Luminously perceptive.’ Australian Women’s Weekly
‘The Dark Flood Rises pulls no punches about the indignities of “getting on”, lightened by brilliant writing and good humour.’ North and South
‘As Drabble unfolds the interweaving stories of her cast, most of them in their seventies, she gently and adroitly brings them all to moving, poignant life…I don’t think anyone has written better about old age as we know it now…Drabble’s new work is to be welcomed, appreciated and celebrated.’ New Zealand Listener
‘An extraordinary jewel of a book…This is a work by a master of fiction and every library and school should rush to get a copy. It is a summation of what a woman of exceptional achievement and intelligence knows about writing and about life.’ Australian
This searingly sad but often hilarious novel chronicles the last dance of a few old codgers, and Drabble (The Sea Lady) has filled her tale with characters desperately trying to make sense of life and loss, of beauty, talent, missed opportunities, faded passion. She burrows inside the head of Fran, a manic 70-something elder-care specialist who drives around England studying but would never in a million years actually live in retirement communities. She introduces us to Fran's literary friend Josephine, with whom she shared her first few harrowing years of solitary "baby-minding," and who now teaches adult- and continuing-ed classes, and to Claude, Fran's ex-husband, whose career as a surgeon left Fran home alone to take care of the children. Claude is now bedridden, listening to his beloved Maria Callas while waiting for Fran to bring him plated dinners. We meet Fran's childhood friend Teresa, dying of cancer, and Bennett, a benignly pompous Spanish Civil War expert who lives with the slightly younger Ivor in the Canaries. Fran's two children, Christopher and Poppet, provide some relief from hammer toes, fractured hips, and terminal illness. Each character has a passion classical music, art history, Beckett, Unamuno, and Yeats which gives rise to Drabble's exposition on issues that dog her. And expound she does, on "effortless, meaningless, soulless beauty," on the philosophy of free will and coincidence (including Jung, Catholicism, and moral luck), indeed on "what on earth literature is for."