(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Liz Headleand, a London psychiatrist, receives a package from Southeast Asia containing a variety of scraps of writing and notes by her friend Stephen Cox, plus parts of two human finger bones, photographs, and other items. She consults her close friend Alix Bowen and continues to pore over the fragments, for she is half in love with Stephen and is worried. She contacts Hattie Osborne, a friend of Stephen who is living in his London flat while he is away. Hattie begins telling Liz what she knows about Stephen, who had left on a trip to Bangkok, Thailand, to research Pol Pot for a play he had been writing. No one knows how long he has been gone.

Months earlier, Stephen is sitting next to a former Thai beauty queen on his flight to Bangkok. Miss Porntip, now an entrepreneur, takes him under her wing after they arrive. Stephen soon meets Konstantin Vassiliou, a photographer, who introduces him to a network of foreign travelers and aid workers. Meanwhile, in London, Liz goes to a banquet to raise funds for the restoration of Asian temples at the invitation of her former husband. She sits with her friend Esther Breuer, an art historian, who is being wooed by government minister Robert Oxenholme.

In no time, Robert and Esther marry. At their wedding, Liz meets Simon Grunewald, an ethnologist who had met Stephen in Bangkok. He tries to help Liz understand the contents of the package that she received from Asia, and confirms that the package was...

(The entire section is 549 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Bokat, Nicole Suzanne. The Novels of Margaret Drabble: “This Freudian Family Nexus.” New York: Peter Lang, 1998. A psychobiography of Drabble that relates her life experience to the contents of her fiction. Also considers how her work approaches classic psychological determinism.

Brownley, Martine Watson. “Mothers and Capitalists in International Politics: Margaret Drabble’s The Gates of Ivory.” In Deferrals of Domain: Contemporary Women Novelists and the State. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Presents a sociopolitical analysis of The Gates of Ivory through the lens of feminist theory.

Knutsen, Karen Patrick. “Leaving Dr. Leavis: A Farewell to the Great Tradition? Margaret Drabble’s The Gates of Ivory.” English Studies 77 (1996): 579-591. Knutsen argues that Drabble partially abandons her inheritance of social realism and uses postmodern techniques to pursue her goal of an “un-postmodern” moral critique of the contemporary world.

Leeming, Glenda. Margaret Drabble. Tavistock, England: Northcote House/British Council, 2006. A general and thoughtful book on Drabble’s work. Chapter 7 deals with the trilogy ending in The Gates of Ivory.

Onega, Susana, ed. Telling Histories: Narrativizing History, Historicizing Literature. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995. This wide-ranging study of the way history appears in fiction and the way in which fiction critiques history leads up to studies of contemporary British writing, including the trilogy ending in The Gates of Ivory. Complex essays that place Drabble’s work in perspective.

Rubenstein, Roberta. “Fragmented Bodies/Selves/Narratives: Margaret Drabble’s Postmodern Turn.” Contemporary Literature 35 (1994): 136-155. This article focuses on Drabble’s use of illness, the maiming of the body, and metaphorical suggestions of human beings disintegrating to reflect how the larger world is losing meaning.

Sullivan, Mary Rose. “Margaret Drabble: Chronicler, Moralist, Artist.” In British Women Writing Fiction, edited by Abby H. P. Werlock. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2000. Provides a short chronological analysis of Drabble’s novels through The Gates of Ivory. Includes both a bibliography of critical works on Drabble and an extensive bibliography of her works, including her scholarly publications and short stories.

Wojcik-Andrews, Ian. Margaret Drabble’s Female Bildungsromane: Theory, Genre, and Gender. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. This book approaches Drabble’s novels of women’s experience of growth and maturity through a variety of theoretical perspectives, including Marxist-feminist theory.