Book of the Week

Each week, we'll let you know about the new releases the editors of O and couldn't stop reading.
The Pure Gold Baby

The Pure Gold Baby

304 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
For a few short paragraphs, you may think the baby at the center of Margaret Drabble's new novel is actually made of pure gold. But little Anna's purity and gilded charm are based on her ability to make strangers fall almost instantly in love with her. She is that special kind of infant, writes Drabble. "You have seen them in parks, in supermarkets, at airports. They are the happy ones...when you look at them their response is to smile." In this case, Anna has yet another distinguishing quality. She is mentally handicapped and will never learn to read or write. The story is not told from the perspective of her single mother, Jess, but from a family friend, Eleanor, who's deeply entrenched in their neighborhood parent group. What emerges is a portrait of 1960s London and that "ragged informal community of children which accepted [Anna] for what she was, promoted by the kind example of their parents." As well meaning as these fellow mothers are, few get to know anything about Anna. Much later, when they're forced to face challenges in their own families, you may wonder if Anna's unexamined nature has left her better off, or at least less damaged, than her supposedly more advanced and integrated peers. A thought-provoking read on the complexities of difference.
— Leigh Newman