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The Peppered Moth

Drabble, Margaret

757 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0151005214 / ISBN 13: 9780151005215
Published by Harcourt, Inc., New York, San Diego, London, 2001
Used Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
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About this Item

2001 Near Fine Book, Near Fine unclipped jacket ($25.00), Stated First U.S. Edition, 369 clean tight unmarked pages, no markings or PO signatures, mustard boards with silver embossed spine lettering, b/w illustrated jacket with purple and white lettering, only very mild shelf wear to bottom book spine and top spine jacket. Bookseller Inventory # 004724

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Peppered Moth

Publisher: Harcourt, Inc., New York, San Diego, London

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Bessie Bawtry is a young girl living in the early 1900s in Breaseborough, a mining town in South Yorkshire, England. Unusually gifted, she longs to escape a life burdened by unquestioned tradition. She studies patiently, dreaming of the day when she will take the entrance exam for Cambridge and be able to leave her narrow world. A generation later, Bessie's daughter Chrissie feels a similar impulse to expand her horizons, which she in turn passes on to her own daughter.

Nearly a century later, Bessie's granddaughter, Faro Gaulden, finds herself listening to a lecture on genetics and biological determinism. She has returned to Breaseborough and wonders at the families who remained in the humble little town where Bessie grew up. Confronted with what would have been her life had her grandmother stayed, she finds herself faced with difficult questions. Is she really so different from the plain South Yorkshire locals? As she soon learns, the past has a way of reasserting itself-not unlike the peppered moth that was once thought to be nearing extinction but is now enjoying a sudden unexplained resurgence.

The Peppered Moth is a brilliantly conceived novel, full of irony, sadness, and humor.

Review:

In The Peppered Moth, Margaret Drabble chronicles four generations in the life of a family, homing in on the female line and attempting to explain how genes, DNA, and environment can change or challenge an individual. The tale begins with Bessie Bawtry, a gifted young woman from a South Yorkshire mining town who fails to live up to her promise. It ends with her granddaughter, Faro Gaulden, "a bobby dazzler" radiant with opportunities and ideas, who nonetheless can't quite make the most of what she has. All of this would produce a fairly straightforward and enjoyable tale of family life--and inherited characteristics--but for Drabble's tone, which is, frankly, uneasy. It wavers from the clinical voice-over ("We must try to rediscover the long-ago infant in her vanished world") to the mawkish elegy ("O poor young girls in flower, you poor frail darlings, who will watch over you, who will guide and protect you?").

What happened? Drabble's afterword, in fact, explains a great deal of this waywardness. Bessie Bawtry, with her hard-won education, her relinquishing lapses into illness, and her life of deferred pleasures, is based on the author's mother. Consequently, there is the sense of filling in biographical gaps with fictional plots and characters, and then carefully plastering everything into place with a thin layer of scientific metaphor. Drabble, alas, is too personally involved with this material, and her prose suffers. It juts and jars at awkward angles, reducing The Peppered Moth to a gawky adolescent of a book instead of a mature, measured reflection on family history. --Eithne Farry

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