Humphrey Clark and Ailsa Kelman spent a summer together as children in Ornemouth, a town by the gray North Sea. Now, as they journey back to receive honorary degrees from a new university there--Humphrey on the train, Ailsa flying--they take stock of their lives, their careers, and their shared personal entanglements, romantic and otherwise. ...
Humphrey Clark and Ailsa Kelman spent a summer together as children in Ornemouth, a town by the gray North Sea. Now, as they journey back to receive honorary degrees from a new university there--Humphrey on the train, Ailsa flying--they take stock of their lives, their careers, and their shared personal entanglements, romantic and otherwise. Humphrey is a successful marine biologist, happiest under water, but now retired; Ailsa, scholar and feminist, is celebrated for her pioneering studies of gender. Their mutual pasts unfold in an exquisite portrait of English social life in the latter half of the twentieth century.
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Publishers Weekly, 2006-12-04 The bold latest from by the ever-inventive Drabble (The Red Queen, etc.) tells the tale of two aging academics-Ailsa Kelman, flamboyant feminist activist and TV talking head, and marine biologist Humphrey Clark-who are traveling separately to the North Sea coastal town of Ornemouth: she's presenting a book award that he, unknowingly, will receive. The two met at Ornemouth as children one summer toward the end of WWII; they lost track of one another and haven't seen each other since their brief, disastrous marriage in 1960s London. A cocky narrator reveals the charged memories, of childhood and beyond, that the trip triggers for both-and occasionally breaks free to fill in narrative gaps and pose destiny-altering scenarios. Neither is content: Humphrey is lonely and dissatisfied by his scholarship's mere competence; Ailsa, twice divorced, is uncertain if she's a success or a caricature of success (her cervix has been on TV). Secondaries include red-headed local boy Sandy Clegg, and Ailsa's rich, unscrupulous brother Tommy, in thick with the royals. Nothing as simple as a love story, this prismatic novel shines as a faceted portrait of England's changing mores, as an ode on childhood's joys and injustices, and a primer for marine biology, complete with hermaphrodite crayfish and fossils of sea lilies. Seductive as the tides, it pulls the reader in. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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