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Friday, November 29, 2002

Book Review: The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble

In Margaret Drabble's novel The Waterfall, we meet Jane Gray, a woman whose suffering and blessings stem not from action, but from inaction. She prefers boredom over activity, chance over effort, and whatever happens to her over whatever she can make happen. She only falls in love by chance, a corrupt love she never tries to avoid.

Since Jane will not reach for it, love must find her. It watches and waits for her to recover from the birth of her second child. Jane, who drifted into marriage then drove her husband away with her passive disinterest, manages to (unintentionally) attract another man, with whom she falls in love. Their love develops not from a courtship, but from his childlike desire to lie in her warm bed, and from her passive inability to refuse him.

Jane takes us on a journey through her passive experience to an existential awakening. Though it would seem that a character like the one I describe here would prove intolerable, the talented Margaret Drabble makes us want to take the journey with Jane, and makes us want to see Jane finally discarding her passivity.

I consider The Waterfall Drabble's finest novel, and hope that more readers will discover it.

Next week: some blogs I love!