Margaret Drabble (b. 1939) is a British novelist, short story writer, playwright, biographer and critic. Her novels depict English women who struggle with the choices they make in their lives. The political, social and economic times during which the characters live also figure prominently. The novels include A Summer Bird-Cage; the Needle’s Eye; The Ice Age; The Witch of Exmoor; and The Peppered Moth. A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman is a collection of short stories. Her biographies include Arnold Bennett: A Biography and Angus Wilson: A Biography. Her critical works include Wordsworth; The Genius of Thomas Hardy; Writer’s Britain: Landscape and Literature and, as editor, two editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws is a memoir. Drabble has been awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize; the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; the St. Louis Literary Award; and the Golden PEN Award. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire and later promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The University of Cambridge has awarded her an honorary Doctorate in Letters.
Drabble is not a Friend. She says, however, “I remain very impressed by Quaker faith and behavior”. Her father was a Quaker, and she was raised with an emphasis on integrity and service. She attended Mount in York, a Friends school for girls, where her classmates included her sister, the novelist A.S. Byatt, and the actor Judi Dench. (She noted that she appeared in A Midsummer’s Night Dream where “Judi played Titania and I played a fairy”). Her mother also taught at the school. Drabble remembers the evening Meeting for Worship there as “a meditation – a “medi” – a silence to reflect on your day”. Friendly testimonies, like the Inner Light, are an influence in her books. She has been active in feminist and peace causes.
I had been unfamiliar with Margaret Drabble’s work. I am reading The Peppered Moth now, a novel about Bessie Bawtry, a Yorkshire woman, and Faro, her granddaughter, both in their times trying to escape their upbringing. It is light, allusive writing with great power. A very good read.