Margaret Drabble – The Pure Gold Baby

Peter Florence welcomed back to Hay the woman who was the first ever novelist they invited in 1988.  This time she was here  to talk about her novel The Pure Gold Baby. Margaret Drabble admitted to finding it difficult to find the right narrative voice for the novel about a young single mother of a severely mentally handicapped child. It is a novel of themes rather than characters, focussing on how time passes as we get older, how we become more reflective. It deals with the paradox of a child never growing up, always needing its mother. The young mother in the story will never be free from her role. Drabble admits that her writing process has slowed down as she’s got older. She finds she is less inhibited than she was as  an a young writer, asking herself “is it worth doing?”. Peter Florence asked her about the first sentence of the book, and what ‘prolepsis’ means – she explained that it is a literary device meaning a kind of ‘poetic foreshadowing’. She felt that her publisher and editor would hate it, but at this stage in her career she felt that she could get away with it! The novel is based on the situation of a good friend of hers, but she didn’t tell her she had written it until she had finished the book.  Luckily the friend approved and only made a few factual corrections to the manuscript. Drabble favours fiction over fact, as “it allows you to generalise, fiction frees you to make speculations, make theories about how things develop”. She had always been haunted about her friends situation, but also wondered if she had the right to write about someone who could never read what she’d written.

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