The Dark Flood Rises ~ by Margaret Drabble

Another really, really good one!  It’s so good I stopped about 1/3 through and downloaded the Kindle version to start over and read along.  I think maybe it really should be read in print so you can mentally switch characters when the narrative does as there are non-aural  clues that way.  In the book there are small dots to indicate these breaks,  but with listening only I’m not sure there was even a slightly longer pause in the audio verion.  Also, the reader doesn’t change her voice much because there really is only one 3rd person narrator relating the thoughts and speech of many characters.

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The Dark Flood Rises
by Margaret Drabble
2018 / 337 pages
read by Anne Bentinck – 13h 21m
rating: 8.75   / contemporary fict

Okay but although I loved it,  it may not be for everyone.  It could be a really bleak and sad book if you read it that way.

The story arc involves several elderly people who think about their lives and family, mostly stay as active and involved in their individual lives as possible and are concerned in their own ways and to various degrees about death.  They remember their lives a lot so memory is a major theme but it’s never played with like a more post-modern approach would do.  With these folks the memories are sometimes clearer than what they did this morning.

Also of note is that it’s set in England circa 2017 with all the social-techie-political-climate-immigration issues of our times and those are like minor themes of a sort.  It could be taken as being very depressing. The issues range from elder care to immigration, finance, books, climate change and, of course,  death.  And each has his own special interest of course,  literature and the arts usually.    These are all part and parcel of their lives now .  Coloring (as in coloring books) comes up a fair amount,  almost as a little motif.

The ruminations of the characters kind of flow along from one subject to another and then, voila,  the narrative is describing another  character who, in his/her own circumstances,is doing the same thing.  (In print these are like chapter breaks.)

There’s Francesca Stubbs, a 70+-year old woman who is still employed as an expert advisor on housing for the elderly so she drives all around England touring facilities and attending conventions, eating soft-boiled eggs.  She loves this part of her life, but she also cares for her very-ex husband by cooking and leaving nutritious meals for him in properly marked freezer bags.  She’s very active although she doesn’t have to be.  I think it keeps age at bay but she’s aware she’s not what she was.

She has often suspected that her last words to herself and in this world will prove to be ‘You bloody old fool’ or, perhaps, depending on the mood of the day or the time of the night, ‘you fucking idiot’.

There are five or six  other major characters who are related to some degree or another whose thoughts are followed.  There’s Claude,  Francesca’s ex-husband, a retired doctor who has a very attractive care-giver, Persephone.  And Christopher, the son of Claude and Fran, who is grieving the sudden death of his girlfriend while they were vacationing on the Canary Islands.  Also on the islands are Christopher’s aging gay friends,  Bennett, age 70-something is an well-known author whose  his companion Ivar is much  younger. They  live on the islands permanently,  in a wonderful old house. And there’s  Poppet, Christopher’s sister, a solitary soul who lives alone in the west of England and is very concerned about the environment – she is quite sensitive and does her level best to live her beliefs and keep up electronically with the world’s climate crises and protests.

Fran’s  friend Josephine is also elderly and on limited income, but getting along teaching classes for interest  and sometimes dining with her old friend Owen.  The two of them are friends with Bennett and Ivar.

And then about half way through,  some action seems to  start –  a bit-  Fran gets herself in a spot of trouble as does Bennett.  This puts some almost page-turning tension in the novel –  keeps it from going downhill like the lives of the characters are destined to do.

I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read by Margaret Drabble so I grabbed it, nominated it, and read it, almost within a month.  And  I really enjoy reading about the post-retirement crowd,  my own generation, these days.

 

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