Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

IFOA Special Interview: Margaret Drabble

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Margaret Drabble

Iconic UK novelist and biographer Margaret Drabble is in Toronto for the International Festival of Authors and took the time to chat about her newest book, The Pure Gold Baby (HarperCollins Canada), with Open Book. The Pure Gold Baby tells the story of a single mother in 1960s London, once an aspiring anthropologist. When her baby is born, young Jessica realizes that her sunny, beautiful children is somehow different.

We speak to Dame Margaret (who was made a Dame of the British empire for her contributions to the national literature) about the treatment of mothers in fiction and her feelings about our own homegrown icon, recent Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.

You can see Dame Margaret in person at her IFOA events. Click here for more details.

Open Book:

Tell us a little about the experience of writing Jessica. How did she evolve for you? What do you see as her defining characteristics?

Margaret Drabble:

Jessica has a loving heart (inherited from her father) and a great curiosity about people and the world, which she satisfies as best she can.


What drew you to the 1960s as the right setting for this story? How does Jessica's social environment in that time influence the narrative, and do you feel a special attraction to that period?


I nearly always write in my own time frame and of my generation. Motherhood in the sixties is a very interesting topic. The novel is about social change as well as individuals.


It seems motherhood is still a rarely explored perspective. What draws you to create such nuanced examinations of mothers' lives? Do you feel mothers have gotten short shrift in fiction?


Motherhood was rarely explored in fiction in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but with a changing demographic it's now much more prominent as theme, and rightly so.


You're visiting Canada for the International Festival of Authors. What are some of the pleasurable aspects of such touring? Do you have any essentials you would recommend authors pack for a book tour?


Meeting people, seeing new places. Just had a wonderful hour with Canadian art in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Also, seeing old friends. Always take plenty to read (easy with Kindle) and old fashioned paper clips.


Canada's literary community has recently been buoyed by Alice Munro's Nobel Prize nod. Have you encountered Munro's writing and if so, what are your thoughts?


I've read all Munro I think and greatly admire her. So thrilled by the Nobel.


What can you tell us about your next project or projects?


I'm working on a novel about different ways of growing old.

Margaret Drabble is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth and The Needle’s Eye, among other novels. She has written biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson, and she is the editor of the fifth and sixth editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, Drabble was made a Dame of the British Empire.

For more information about The Pure Gold Baby please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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