The Sea Lady

I used the hour given to us this morning upon turning the clocks back to finish off Margret Drabble's The Sea Lady. It is a rather odd tale of academics and aging.

Two academics in their 60s are traveling to the (presumably, I can't find it on Wikipedia) northern coastal town of Ornemouth to receive honorary doctorates at the new university there, which is desperately trying to pretend that it is an old English university.  Humphrey, the marine biologist, and Ailsa (apparently named after the Scottish Ailsa Craig), the gender studies star, had spent a summer together as children here together with her brother and a friend.

Drabble switches perspectives from Ailsa to Humphrey to an irritatingly omniscient Public Orator, and we follow their respective trains of thought as they review their academic and personal lives - and tragedies - on the trip northward. Ailsa and Humphrey had been lovers and briefly married at one time.

The book was hard to follow as my usual read-a-few-pages-before-bed companion, but the last 70 pages or so - read this morning - did finally become fascinating, even if the ending I was envisioning did not present itself. The very few chapter divisions and typographical breaks when skipping over time make it hard to pick up the thread again. I suppose Drabble wants to draw us into the stream of consciousness and make us participate in the thought processes of the main characters. But I don't read books at one sitting anymore (okay, with the exception of Stieg Larsson during a summer's read-a-thon).

I long, somehow, upon finishing reading, to head right for the sea.

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