BookBrowse Reviews The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Pattern in the Carpet

A Personal History with Jigsaws

by Margaret Drabble

The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 368 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


One of the finest writers of our time pens a personal history - with jigsaws

The jigsaw, with its frame, is a simulacrum of meaning, order and design… if you try hard enough, you can complete it. That galactic scatter of inert and inept fragments of wood or cardboard will come together and make a picture.

Books, too, have beginnings and endings, and they attempt to impose a pattern, to make a shape. We aim, by writing them, to make order from chaos. We fail. The admission of failure is the best that we can do. It is a form of progress
. (Margaret Drabble)

To read The Pattern in the Carpet is to witness the wide-ranging power of a keen and curious mind. By her own admission "not a tidy writer," Margaret Drabble's "personal history with jigsaws" is a memoir for readers who are willing to stray from the path and possibly never return. It's about jigsaws, certainly, but also about history, philosophy, cartography, literature, poetry, obsession, depression, and the delight of the digression. If you like your timelines linear, your themes clearly laid out, and your narrator a reliable tourguide with a checklist, you'll likely run screaming after the first chapter. But if you're willing to surrender to her charms, you'll find that Drabble is an irresistibly eccentric guide with a rigorous curiosity and wicked wit.

She draws you in with stories of curmudgeonly old Aunt Phyl, who fostered Drabble's love of jigsaws. The backdrop is an Anglophile's dream of English country roads, winding thoroughfares, "neat and trim" villages, complete with Wellies and chipped enamel jugs. Childhood rhymes and storybooks, treasured games and dreaded maypoles, depressive parents and a beloved younger Aunt Phyl all round out a detailed but nonlinear sketch of Drabble's childhood - and the already fierce powers of observation and curiosity developing in her young mind.

Delving into the history of jigsaws, which begins in the 18th century with dissected maps mounted on boards, Drabble reflects on the boom of educational products for children that followed Locke and Rousseau's revolutionary and influential ideas about the education of children. She approaches her subjects as a scholar-cum-investigator, consulting numerous texts, historical records, and journeying into rare book rooms to glimpse crumbling artifacts. Then, suddenly, in the middle of a passage about the author of The English Jigsaw-Puzzle 1760-1890, Drabble recalls her affair with an antiquarian book dealer (a "too-much-married man") and the "brief, illicit hours" she spent with him "amidst the book stacks, in dark basements and leaking warehouses!" Both married with "too many children" between them, the affair doesn't last, but the friendship and the obsession with antique periodicals does. In just one paragraph, this remembrance breathes tantalizingly fresh air into the dusty maps, philosophy and history. Nakedly honest assessments and reminiscences inserted into the larger, snaking narrative are what make this book so deeply personal – and so oddly engrossing. Drabble is as rigorous in pursuing her personal history as she is with any other topic, which makes for a very alluring portrait. Refreshingly flawed, she comes across as the neighbor you wish would invite you in for strong tea and challenging conversation.

While it may not be tidy, The Pattern in the Carpet is certainly not messy. Think of a jigsaw puzzle spilled out on a table – it appears scattered, but there's an order somewhere in there. It's up to you to find it. You may start on one corner, get stuck, and move onto another. Perhaps you'll abandon it, leave it for a rainy day. Or maybe you'll get terribly frustrated and throw the whole thing back into the box. However you come at it, there are great pleasures and treasures to be found in the process, if only you have the patience.

Reviewed by Lucia Silva

This review was originally published in October 2009, and has been updated for the September 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Forest Dark
    Forest Dark
    by Nicole Krauss
    In Forest Dark, Nicole Krauss presents parallel stories of two people who leave New York to stay in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Amber Shadows
    The Amber Shadows
    by Lucy Ribchester
    The Amber Shadows sweeps readers into the realm of World War II-era Britain where Honor "Honey" ...
  • Book Jacket: Midwinter Break
    Midwinter Break
    by Bernard MacLaverty
    Northern Ireland's Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five novels and multiple short story ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.