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Seen as a crucial novel on feminism and motherhood during the British 60s, The Millstone is told in the first person by Rosamund Stacey, a well brought up Londoner, and well educated daughter of middle class socialists She is working on a PhD at the start of the novel and her sentences reflect her brainbox intelligent, fluent, and meaningful, but there s also a shy stiffness in them, too She was once told that sex is a very terrible thing, and after all her problems with the subject, Rosamund Seen as a crucial novel on feminism and motherhood during the British 60s, The Millstone is told in the first person by Rosamund Stacey, a well brought up Londoner, and well educated daughter of middle class socialists She is working on a PhD at the start of the novel and her sentences reflect her brainbox intelligent, fluent, and meaningful, but there s also a shy stiffness in them, too She was once told that sex is a very terrible thing, and after all her problems with the subject, Rosamund does finally allow one man to make love to her, just the once Once is seen as enough.Rosamund s inhibition, her virgin ness, isn t because she doesn t like the sensations of sex it s rather an excess of self consciousness and self doubt, part of the class penalty she pays for her flat in Marylebone and the principled parents and the good education And after an unsatisfactory one night fumble with the charming George, an announcer at the BBC, she becomes pregnant, but never tells him that she s pregnant, and decides she will have the baby, on her own Rosamund is headstrong, and believes it s her job to provide for her baby whatever it takes She is a world away from the bone idle teens of today who get knocked up to live the life of riley on benefits without a care in the world for their children To be an unmarried mother in the 60s was not just embarrassing, it was also seen in wider society as dishonourable Rosamund s sister remonstrates she cannot inflict the slur of illegitimacy on a child It s totally unwise She must give up the baby for adoption But Rosamund digs her heels in Insulated by her class and her brilliance she will go ahead and have the child We follow Rosamund through pregnancy, and the early days of being a mother with her baby girl Octavia She also got to sail through labour in next to no time, so can count herself lucky I ve been told countless times by the mothers in my family that men are wimps, compared with what women have to go through giving birth.The novel unfolds with elegant minimalism and clever out of sequence turns the little scenes and the fragments of background happenings are the stepping stones that carry the reader across the river of the story Essentially this is a novel about maternal love Rosamund has the means to earn a living and the respect of others But above all she has her daughter, and no one can interfere with that Rosamund s adventure is pregnancy and motherhood, and her freedom is the option, new and still tentative in the 1960s, to become a single parent without stigma The novel can also be seen as a fascinating record of those still early years of the NHS, when women of all classes mingled about in dingy waiting rooms, feeling like being part of a social experiment.I found this a wonderfully written and warming book, and was really touched by Rosamund s plight as she deals with the consequences of becoming pregnant, her agonies and pressures about whether to self abort, and her progress through the screwball maze of the NHS A nice fitting ending as well For a book written as long ago as 1965 this story of an intelligent single woman who finds herself pregnant is surprisingly modern and sympathetic, with a refreshing lack of traditional moralising Its heroine Rosamund has an academic background similar to Drabble s and is cushioned by being able to live rent free in her travelling parents London flat.In the first half of the book she drifts into a decision to keep the baby, and there is plenty of humour in the caricatured reactions of everyone For a book written as long ago as 1965 this story of an intelligent single woman who finds herself pregnant is surprisingly modern and sympathetic, with a refreshing lack of traditional moralising Its heroine Rosamund has an academic background similar to Drabble s and is cushioned by being able to live rent free in her travelling parents London flat.In the first half of the book she drifts into a decision to keep the baby, and there is plenty of humour in the caricatured reactions of everyone she meets She conveniently acquires a flatmate in Lydia, an aspiring novelist who is discovered to be writing about her which allows a slightly metafictional layer to be developed.In the second half of the book the baby Octavia is born and Rosamund finds redemption in unexpected ways none of which involve the various men she is involved with.I found this book interesting and very enjoyable particularly so soon after reading her latest one The Dark Flood Rises last month This is the story of a young academic in the mid 1960s who finds herself accidentally pregnant, and single.I first read this covertly in my early teens, having been shocked to find it on my very conservative mother s shelves I remember being very moved by it, though too naive and inexperienced to relate to much of it Nearly 30 years and one planned child later, I found it an excellent piece of writing, albeit for somewhat different reasons.Times may have changed in terms of the social acce This is the story of a young academic in the mid 1960s who finds herself accidentally pregnant, and single.I first read this covertly in my early teens, having been shocked to find it on my very conservative mother s shelves I remember being very moved by it, though too naive and inexperienced to relate to much of it Nearly 30 years and one planned child later, I found it an excellent piece of writing, albeit for somewhat different reasons.Times may have changed in terms of the social acceptability of single parenthood, but it all rings very true for its time and many of her feelings around the time of the birth are pretty universal.It is a good mix of funny, thoughtful and sad, and avoids moralising, sentimentality or tidy plotting.It is interesting to compare it with Lynne Reid Banks The L Shaped Room, which is a similar situation, written and set at roughly the same time my review HERE and also McEwan s On Chesil Beach my review HERE , which is a very different story, but which also features a woman struggling with sexual intimacy, against the zeitgeist of the swinging 60s I have wanted to read this for years, but was alwasys hoping that one day I would find it in a library to save me buying it When I discovered that King s College s library had fiction this was one of the first books I found and how glad I was This was a fantastic read Funny, full of despair and utterly relatable, the story follows young, unmarried academic Rosamund Stacey, who lives alone in her parents apartment while they spend time abroad She is in the middle of writing her thesis, I have wanted to read this for years, but was alwasys hoping that one day I would find it in a library to save me buying it When I discovered that King s College s library had fiction this was one of the first books I found and how glad I was This was a fantastic read Funny, full of despair and utterly relatable, the story follows young, unmarried academic Rosamund Stacey, who lives alone in her parents apartment while they spend time abroad She is in the middle of writing her thesis, when a one night stand with a close friend results in unplanned pregnancy The book follows her the time counting down the pregnancy, whilst trying desperately to keep the news from the father of the child as well as her parents, as well as coping with the stigma surrounding her being unmarried and choosing to keep a baby I love Rosamund as a character, I find her incredibly brave and self confident in her decisions, and I found myself agreeing with her choices and metaphorically cheering her on through most of the story I also love that early on in the book, Rosamund convinces her small friendship circle that she is sleeping with 2 men at once, when in fact she is sleeping with neither, and as both the men believe she is sleeping with the other man, neither of them pressure her into sleeping with them.Drabble has such a great way of writing, I can t wait to read my next book by her I think I m among the few who read this and got upset with the ending While the novel is readable and at least for the four fifths of its length manages to be largely inoffensive for such a subject single motherhood in the 60s , it ends with the kind of run of the mill writing one associates with Mills and Boon romances Rosamund Stacey, the Cambridge postgraduate, is so bland one can hardly associate her with anything concerning gasp sexuality Somehow she manages to beget an illegitim I think I m among the few who read this and got upset with the ending While the novel is readable and at least for the four fifths of its length manages to be largely inoffensive for such a subject single motherhood in the 60s , it ends with the kind of run of the mill writing one associates with Mills and Boon romances Rosamund Stacey, the Cambridge postgraduate, is so bland one can hardly associate her with anything concerning gasp sexuality Somehow she manages to beget an illegitimate child with a man who has as much debonair charm as Mr Ronald MacDonald I won t give the ending away, except to say that it reads like a meretricious pretence to profundity And this book is said to be amongst Drabble s best I think I can safely chuck her with the likes of Barbara Cartland This was just an ok read for me I found it very dated, although can imagine that it raised a few eyebrows in its day. My career has always been marked by a strange mixture of confidence and cowardice almost, one might say, made by itRosamund Stacey is an unmarried, academically brilliant young woman living rent free in her parent s spacious London apartment while they are away in Africa She has come of age on the cusp of the sexual revolution when the capital is about to morph into Swinging London and sex is almost de rigueur for a modern city girl of her class and generation Nevertheless, in that tMy career has always been marked by a strange mixture of confidence and cowardice almost, one might say, made by itRosamund Stacey is an unmarried, academically brilliant young woman living rent free in her parent s spacious London apartment while they are away in Africa She has come of age on the cusp of the sexual revolution when the capital is about to morph into Swinging London and sex is almost de rigueur for a modern city girl of her class and generation Nevertheless, in that typically hypocritical British way, illegitimacy continues to be taboo.She feels in many ways out of step with her fashionable and literary friends because she is secretly still a virgin While she thoroughly enjoys socialising, drinking and going out with young men, she is in some ways determinedly asexual, content to allow each of her two boyfriends to think she s sleeping with the other One must, of course, remember, it is 1965 and the contraceptive pill is available only to married women a situation that continues until 1967 the same year in which abortion is legalized so accidental pregnancies are an ever present risk Rosamund s refusal to yield to sex is then understandable and probably not as unusual as she thinks.After a single sexual encounter with George, a shy, gentle, possibly gay announcer for BBC Radio, Rosamund falls pregnant They are, however, both diffident and deeply unsure characters indeed, people in general aren t as emotionally articulate as they are nowadays She has been raised never to inconvenience others and never to make a fuss She therefore does not inform George of his paternity but chooses to stay away from him throughout her pregnancy Where she differs most drastically from other middle class, well brought up young Englishwomen of her era is in making a conscious decision to keep the baby She elects to combine single parenthood with having an academic career.Drabble has always maintained this book is about motherhood and isn t political, but The Millstone has nevertheless come to be regarded as a seminal 1960s feminist novel During the writing of the narrative she was expecting her third child and large chunks of the story are based on her own experience of learning to navigate the system GPs surgeries, clinics, NHS maternity wards etc I was particularly fascinated by the chapters relating to pregnancy and birth in Britain during this period having often heard my own mother discuss the subject from a personal perspective I too was born in 1965.Unlike so many of the unmarried mothers she meets, Rosamund has financial padding she s not rich but she certainly isn t impoverished She sees poorer women having a far worse time than herself and she comes to understand that she has been born into a privileged world She does, though, feel rather shocked when the letter U for Unmarried is placed at the foot of her hospital bed.She names her daughter Octavia and finds in her an unconditional love, the like of which she has never known So, when her baby requires life saving heart surgery and Rosamund is barred from the hospital by an officious matron who informs her it will be a fortnight before she will be permitted to visit her child, she turns from a dumbly obedient young lady into a screaming, howling madwoman Here I will leave the plot in order not to spoil the story for those planning to read the book.Written in the first person, this poignant, minimalistic tale is about class positioning, accepted codes of behaviour and being a single woman bringing up a child in a still highly priggish England Unlike the Kitchen Sink Dramas of this period, often written by and about angry young men , Drabble s novel is social realism from a woman s viewpoint Though it could be described as a bleak tale of missed opportunities, it is also a funny, astute, extraordinarily beautiful, if understated, paean to motherhood The Millstone is a peculiarly British novel of its time that continues to captivate readers of all generations, and I was unsurprised to learn that it has never been out of print since it was first published 54 years ago.You can readof my reviews and other literary features at Book Jotter &FREE BOOK ☚ The Millstone ⇵ A celebration of the drama and intensity of the mother child relationship, Margaret Drabble s The Millstone won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize inIt is the Swinging Sixties, and Rosamund Stacey is young and inexperienced at a time when sexual liberation is well on its way She conceals her ignorance beneath a show of independence, and becomes pregnant as a result of a one night stand Although single parenthood is still not socially acceptable, she chooses to have the baby rather than to seek an illegal abortion, and finds her life transformed by motherhood Penguin Decades bring you the novels that helped shape modern Britain When they were published, some were bestsellers, some were considered scandalous, and others were simply misunderstood All represent their time and helped define their generation, while today each is considered a landmark work of storytelling Rosamund is marvellous, a true Drabble heroine what spirit is here Sunday Times One of our foremost women writers Guardian The novelist who will have done for late twentieth century London what Dickens did for Victorian London The New York Times Margaret Drabble was born inin Sheffield, Yorkshire, the daughter of barrister and novelist John F Drabble, and sister of novelist AS Byatt She is the author of eighteen novels and eight works of non fiction, including biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson Her many novels include The Radiant Way, A Natural Curiosity, The Gates of Ivory, The Peppered Moth, The Seven Sistersand The Red Queenall of which are published by Penguin In , Margaret Drabble was made a CBE and inshe was made DBE She is married to the biographer Michael Holroyd, and lives in London and Somerset Summary & Study Guide - Fat for Fuel: A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy - Including Diet Cheat Sheet Margaret Drabble s The Millstone won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize inIt is the Swinging Sixties I will never quit Cardboard Crack and Rosamund Stacey is young and inexperienced at a time when sexual liberation is well on its way She conceals her ignorance beneath a show of independence Seed, Grow, Love, Write: One man's unexpected and slow journey to fulfillment and becomes pregnant as a result of a one night stand Although single parenthood is still not 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Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. she chooses to have the baby rather than to seek an illegal abortion How to hold your Breath for over Five minutes - With only two days practice (English Edition) and finds her life transformed by motherhood Penguin Decades bring you the novels that helped shape modern Britain When they were published RCadvisor's Model Airplane Design Made Easy: The Simple Guide to Designing R/C Model Aircraft or Build Your Own Radio Control Flying Model Plane some were bestsellers Kłamca (Kłamca, some were considered scandalous Sara Midda's Book of Days from the South of France and others were simply misunderstood All represent their time and helped define their generation The Funambulist Pamphlets: Volume 2: Foucault while today each is considered a landmark work of storytelling Rosamund is marvellous Dog Shaming 2018 Day-to-Day Calendar a true Drabble heroine what spirit is here Sunday Times One of our foremost women writers Guardian The novelist who will have done for late twentieth century London what Dickens did for Victorian London The New York Times Margaret Drabble was born inin Sheffield Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD Yorkshire Techniques instrumentales d'analyse chimique - en 23 fiches the daughter of barrister and novelist John F Drabble Lucky Escapes!: A selection of short stories and poems to entertain you. and sister of novelist AS Byatt She is the author of eighteen novels and eight works of non fiction HBR's 10 Must Reads On Strategy including biographies of Arnold Bennett and Angus Wilson Her many novels include The Radiant Way Martha Anns Quilt for Queen Victoria A Natural Curiosity Final Warning The Gates of Ivory The New Canadian Garden The Peppered Moth Catching Thunder: The True Story of the World's Longest Sea Chase The Seven Sistersand The Red Queenall of which are published by Penguin In Writing The Broadway Musical Margaret Drabble was made a CBE and inshe was made DBE She is married to the biographer Michael Holroyd I Remember Beirut and lives in London and Somerset For my full review main awareness of Margaret Drabble has always been that she is the sister of A.S Byatt, who wrote Possession, one of my very favourite books, and that the pair of them have had some sort of long running feud which may or may not have been over cooked by the gossip columns but that either way, they do not read each other s books I am doubtful that it is out of any misplaced loyalty to Byatt that I have avoided Drabble s fiction f For my full review main awareness of Margaret Drabble has always been that she is the sister of A.S Byatt, who wrote Possession, one of my very favourite books, and that the pair of them have had some sort of long running feud which may or may not have been over cooked by the gossip columns but that either way, they do not read each other s books I am doubtful that it is out of any misplaced loyalty to Byatt that I have avoided Drabble s fiction for so long but with one thing and another, reading The Millstone did feel slightly overdue I remember half listening to the BBC Radio 4 adaptation a good number of years ago but although I was aware of the basic plot outline, I was not expecting this odd little novel of middle class guilt and liberal neurosis Now fifty years old, The Millstone feels almost like a relic, of this time where society was not quite ready for the swinging sixties but was slowing cutting loose fromconservative s The tale of Rosamund s baby feels close at hand but is quite the vintage piece.Rosamund Stacey is a young Cambridge graduate who is studying towards her thesis and playing at being promiscuous without ever doing the deed by seeing two men at once, she manages to avoid sleeping with either Nervous of physical relations, she is nevertheless caught off guard by George from the BBC and a very brief encounter leaves her unexpectedly pregnant Despite rather uncertainly trying to induce a miscarriage via the medium of gin and a hot bath her friends drink the gin, the bath goes cold , Rosamund decides to keep her child and not to tell George There are obvious parallels here to The L Shaped Room and also On Chesil Beach when it comes to sexuality in 1960s Britain, Rosamund has become a fallen woman, an unwed mother the latter labelled noted when she gives birth by the large U marked at the end of the bed But while Rosamund quickly comes to love her daughter, who she names after Octavia Hill,trouble is around the corner when the child falls ill.The title obviously refers to the baby Octavia, whose existence will of course be seen by others as the millstone around her mother s neck The initial reference comes from the Gospel of Matthew, But whoso shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea I could not help but find it rather trope ish for a woman to fall pregnant as a result of only one sexual encounter am I supposed to pity Rosamund due to her one lapse while another young woman in the same situation but with a lengthier sexual history might be said to have brought the trouble down on her own head The episode between her and George had a poignancy, with neither quite having the confidence or courage to state what they actually wanted Throughout the novel, Rosamund hears George s voice on the radio, considers calling him, feels even a gratitude towards him for bringing him her daughter but her love for Octavia supersedes anything she might have ever felt for him.Drabble has stated that the novel was intended to represent how motherhood turns you into something fiercer and this does seem true for Rosamund, whose diffidence and uncertainty mark her as an unlikely heroine From a middle class and socialist family, she is ridden with liberal guilt along with her siblings, she was put through state school, encouraged to love the NHS and not to over burden it, her parents even insisted on befriending their cleaning lady and feigning unawareness when she stole the silver, despising them for their weakness Rosamund is well aware that she is in an acutely fortunate situation, as with her parents are away in Africa, they have allowed her to stay in their spacious London flat rent free, leaving Rosamund crippled with embarrassment that her friends assume incorrectly that she is rich Further guilt is aroused by the fact that her thesis is focused on Elizabethan poets, and she repeatedly notes that the Elizabethans, except for Shakespeare, are something of a luxury subject, unlike nineteenth century novelists or prolific Augustan poets Good looking, intelligent and comfortably off, Rosamund feels simply terrible for the advantages which nature has given her, and so burdens herself with lack lustre students who she under charges as a mis guided attempt to assuage her guilt It s hard to avoid feeling a sort of impatience with Rosamund since she clearly does care about what is going around her but her passivity makes it seem as though she is allowing her life to happen to her rather than vice versa.Assuring the reader repeatedly that she had not been ill in years and had had no idea how to go about approaching medical services, Rosamund shuns Harley Street like a good socialist and flings herself upon the mercies of the NHS Her sister writes anxious instructions that the child should be adopted and then as little seen of it as possible Rosamund is hurt but renewed in her determination Other relatives are quietly shunned A friend kindly informs her that she can still work for the BBC as the regulations allow unmarried mothers as long as they have nothan two offspring The NHS staff politely refer to her at all times as Mrs Stacey, but make observations about her which are noted as Not To Be Seen By Patient Rosamund looks around at those waiting with her and feels grateful for her clothes and address which mark out her privilege, not wishing to be one of them Yet still, there is Rosamund s wordless terror when Octavia is diagnosed with a serious heart condition if her adored child dies, there will be those who will tell her that it is a blessing Desperate for her child s survival, horrified that Octavia seems to be paying for her mother s sin, Rosamund returns onceto the NHS for help Writing from a time when the NHS was still, if not in its infancy at the very least in its adolescence, I felt a far greater awareness and gratitude at what it affords than is appreciated today Yet still, there are antiquated notions still in operation in this fledgling service and a true dystopian horror as the ward sister refuses to allow Rosamund access to her child, since mothers only upset the children and this cannot be considered for another couple of weeks We have come a long way.The Millstone is less about the consequences of sexual liberation indeed, Rosamund never really achieves this and it seems to beabout the primacy of motherhood The love affair is not between Rosamund and George but rather between Rosamund and her baby Octavia After all the uncertainty around the men in her life, Rosamund is taken aback that her daughter is so fond of her, that Octavia clearly prefers her to all other candidates The blank horror of being separated from her sends her into a wild hysteria and even when her acquaintance with a doctor is able to gain her access to her child, Rosamund remains plagued with guilt about all of the other mothers separated from their children by the whim of the hospital staff Her encounter with another mother who has successfully gained entry to the hospital is salutary, with the other woman kindly but firmly advising her to consider her own child and her own life before she frets away about other people Recognising that this fellow parent speaks from necessity rather than the brisk, Tory contempt, or a businesslike, blinkered air of proud realism which Rosamund has spent her life trying to avoid, her perspective shifts That being said, The Millstone is one of the few novels that can be truly said to have changed legislation, with rules being shifted around hospital visiting times for children No woman should ever have to scream blue murder to have access to her sick child.Still, the novel is not directly criticising the seeking of social justice and is liberal rather than anything else It capturesthe difficulties of a life of perfect principle, of the impossibility of pleasing everyone and also how much easier life can be when one stops fatalising one s every move Having been an outsider for so long, plagued by anxieties about how others must look at her and judge her privilege, suddenly Rosamund can even feel a kinship with these other women in the waiting room She reaches out to her cross looking neighbours who are suddenly very understanding Rosamund does not compromise her ambition, she does not compromise her self or her principles but her life becomesof deeds than ideas The Millstone concerns itself heavily with morality with Rosamund preoccupied by her social conscience but by the end of the novel, there is a greater feeling of lightness and casting down of burdens as she begins to see that that people are farready to be sympathetic than she had thought Was the millstone perhaps not her baby daughter and rather the insecurities, assumptions and anxieties which she had hung around her own neck London in the early 1960s is a place where casual sex is becoming acceptable, but having a child out of wedlock is not Twenty six year old scholar and doctoral student Rosamund Stacey is dating two men whose company she enjoys, but she s really not interested in getting physical with either one Sheinterested in Elizabethan poets and her academic career Then a chance meeting with a likable radio announcer leads to an invitation to her flat, and after her first and only sexual encounter s London in the early 1960s is a place where casual sex is becoming acceptable, but having a child out of wedlock is not Twenty six year old scholar and doctoral student Rosamund Stacey is dating two men whose company she enjoys, but she s really not interested in getting physical with either one Sheinterested in Elizabethan poets and her academic career Then a chance meeting with a likable radio announcer leads to an invitation to her flat, and after her first and only sexual encounter she finds herself pregnant In keeping with her independent values and her strange mixture of confidence and cowardice, she decides to have the child and not tell the father about her pregnancy.Told in the first person, Rosamund s pregnancy and first year of motherhood is a tale of an intelligent young woman making her way in the world that s worthy of Jane Austen Like Austen s heroines, Rosamund is comfortably middle class, but unlike them she is not surrounded by family Her parents are in Africa teaching, and she is alone in their home in London with only friends and casual acquaintances around her She is, by temperament and design, a loner, but after the birth of her daughter Octavia she finds herself overwhelmed by maternal love with all its tender devotion and obsessive worry This tension is a fire that Drabble stokes right up to the final pages of the novel Like Austen s, Drabble s domestic fiction sharply reflects the society, its foibles and inequalities, in which it is set Rosamund is aware that her social position has allowed her to make the choice to have child and career that would not be possible for others with less means and social connections