Drabble’s One-of-a-Kind Memoir

Tired of unrestrained, sensational memoirs?  Then consider Margaret Drabble’s The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History With Jigsaws, an unusual tribute to her lifelong fascination with jigsaw puzzles that doubles as a reserved account of her struggle with depression. While libraries we checked have up to 24 holds on modest numbers of copies, the book has sparked a sympathetic profile of the prolific fiction writer, biographer and literary and social historian in the New York Times Magazine, along with a review in the Los Angeles Times. The book is currently at #1039 on Amazon.

In her New York Times Magazine profile, Daphne Merkin recalls Drabble’s early years as a literary “it” girl in 1960s London and calls her “a British prodigy. . .dedicated to the delineation of the provisional, the tentative, the nontriumphant — what life is rather than what it might be.” Drabble was introduced to jigsaw puzzles by her beloved aunt, who was childfree, and more fun than Drabble’s dour parents. “My mother used [depression] as a weapon to manipulate others,” she said. . . “It took the form of anger.”  Though Drabble found that the puzzles helped her combat her depression, she adds that she finds her dark moods can be “useful. . .for stripping off ways of getting through life that prevent you from having to think.”

 Writing in the LA Times, critic Richard Eder is more circumspect about Drabble’s book and its merits noting that Drabble’s history of jigsaw puzzles can be labored, and that she writes

“of her parents as if in a frozen state from which she still remains unthawed. A reference to her sister, the novelist A.S. Byatt, preserves the rancor that has long existed between these literary rivals. She draws a dolorous picture of the cancer afflicting her second husband, the biographer Michael Holroyd, with long confinement in hospitals and home and a diet whose bland whiteness suggests an endless arctic winter. And she writes of her own depressions, verging at one point on the suicidal.”

So Drabble’s more literary fans may find more to enjoy than jigsaw lovers who don’t already know Drabble.

The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws
Margaret Drabble
Retail Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – (2009-09-16)
ISBN / EAN: 0547241445 / 9780547241449

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