The Garrick Year, written by British author Margaret Drabble, tells the story of Emma Evans, a woman who apparently has given up her life so as to give more room for her actor husband, David, and their two children as they move from London to the small town of Hereford. David has accepted to perform in several plays in Hereford and so the family must move there during the season. During this time, Emma makes friends with some of the actors and actresses, increasingly grows frustrated at the life she has pieced together for herself and takes part in an extramarital affair. She complains and argues with her seemingly clueless husband and yet nothing really gets accomplished or handled by her; it appears as though the complaints and arguments seem to satisfy her enough.
As much as I liked reading The Garrick Year, I was very put off by Emma and her lack of actually making a chance in her life. It seemed as though she wanted to complain and nothing else. And, while she did have an affair, it seemed as though she merely went through the motions and said what needed to be said for the sake of expelling oxygen from her mouth. In short, I disliked Emma immensely and yet I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know the real reason why she married David; was it out of fear, self doubt, boredom, anything? I wish I could ask her. I also wanted to know if her life ever changed after moving back to London once the season was over in Hereford? She reminded me of a woman that you keep seeing at a coffeehouse or in the metro and although she dresses quite plainly, your eyes keep meeting each other out of sheer curiosity. Who is she and why do I want to know more? Why do I keep staring at her and why does she return it in kind? Suddenly, she asks you a simple and random question and by the time the coffees have been consumed or the destination has been reached by the metro, you feel as though you have known her your whole life and wonder if that was a good or bad thing.
The characters in The Garrick Year reminded me of a typical Iris Murdoch novel - all of the characters are real, they express themselves both eloquently and rather choppy and their mindset is quite questionable yet you can't help but want to know more about them. They live their ordinary lives and we the readers get to sample their "life" like a slice of cake.
If you are looking to read a slice of British life that will make you cringe, laugh and wonder, read The Garrick Year.