Monday, 11 May 2015

JERUSALEM THE GOLDEN by Margaret Drabble

This book tells the story of a young woman named Clara who escapes her grim Northern upbringing by getting a scholarship to go to University in London. It never ceases to amaze me how many of these novels there are – about people whose lives are changed by scholarships - all of them of course written by people who really did have their lives changed by scholarships. It makes me wonder how many great authors have been lost to the world through a lack of funding. Many, I suppose.

Clara’s own family is distant and joyless. Her father dies, and we are told: “Mr Maugham had provided for his family with a thoroughness that bordered upon the reckless – in so far as a man may squander upon insurance, he had done so.”

In London, Clara finds a friend named Clelia (not a typo) at a poetry reading. She is entranced:
She liked the cosy way they all seemed to assume that the evening was a wash-out, inevitably, and that he whole job of writing and reading poetry was somehow fundamentally ill-conceived. And yet, at the same time, they wanted to think they had done it well The mixture of general cynicism and personal vanity was peculiarly appealing . .
Margaret Drabble was an actress for a time, and you can entirely tell. This is a painfully accurate description of many a night I’ve spent in small theatres.

She falls in love with Clelia, and Clelia’s wealthy family, and more specifically with Clelia’s married brother. It’s more a learning curve than a real romance, and ends predictably in half-hearted tears. No doubt this is most accurate, with many University romances being more about finding yourself than finding someone else; but still I found it all rather a let down. I’m sure there are better uses to be made of your scholarship.

No comments:

Post a Comment