The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble

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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.


About Margaret Drabble

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MARGARET DRABBLE is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.
Published January 1, 2001 by Harcourt. 386 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Peppered Moth

Kirkus Reviews

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Moving smoothly back and forth in time, guiding readers with the direct authorial address so common in Victorian novels, Drabble considers Bessie’s painful impact on Chrissie and the matriarchal heritage’s more indirect consequences for Faro.

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The Guardian

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The Peppered Moth Margaret Drabble 392pp, Viking, £16.99 Buy it at BOL We might imagine that when The Peppered Moth first began to take shape in Margaret Drabble's mind, she wished to reflect on the perils and possibilities of making fiction out of the grimy confusions of real life.

Jan 06 2001 | Read Full Review of The Peppered Moth

The Guardian

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I have tried - and I apologise for that intrusive authorial "I", which I have done my best to avoid - I have tried to understand why Joe and Bessie married, and I have tried to invent some plausible dialogue for them that might explain it.' If the book's goal is to unearth a continuity between th...

Jan 07 2001 | Read Full Review of The Peppered Moth

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