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!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...
  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    If We Were Villains
    by M. L. Rio

    An intelligent and captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Don't join the book burners...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

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.

 
Modal popup -