Friday, 15 July 2011


Reading an interview with Margaret Drabble in the Telegraph, (thank you Frank Wilson), I came across this remark of hers about her sister, AS Byatt, known to the family as Sue:

“Sue always wanted to write" she tells the interviewer,  "I didn’t want to. I just happened to write a novel when I was pregnant and had nothing to do."

Well, well. Now I think I understand their feud.


  1. A S Byatt may be known as "Sue" to her sister, but in an interview a couple of years ago, she revealed that "My children call me A S Byatt".

  2. My children call me when they want money mainly, Frank

  3. Tbis is a sad old business. As the years have gone by I have enjoyed writing by both of them, but I think there are times when both of them need a firm editor with a Big Red Pen. I loved Byatt's The Children's Book, for instance, but there was a lot of gratutitous 'history teacher talking' in there which I skipped over merrily and lost nothing of the power of the fiction. I felt the same about Drabble's The Radiant Way, which I felt lot a lot of its power with the listing of unneccessary adverbs and adjectives: frequently, often, irritatingly (if you see what I mean).

  4. M-H I first found books by Drabble 25 years ago in the British Council library in Belgrade and at the time I found them really entertaining, but now they seem a bit feeble and dated to me. Although I don't like everything Byatt writes (Possession seemed pretty weak to me and I didn't enjoy Babel Tower or all of her stories), I think she is immensely better than her sister - in a different league, in fact. She takes more risks and tackles bigger subjects. She does have a weakness for parody - I found all the fake Tennyson poems in Possession tedious, although clever; I also thought the mad religious tracts in The Virgin in the Garden or Still Life (forgotten which) were accurately nutty but boring to read. I loved The Children's Book. While Wolf Hall was being praised for its feats of imagination, I kept wondering why Byatt's book wasn't garnering equal or greater praise on that score.