The Pure Gold Baby

The Pure Gold Baby

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Her promising career in 1960s London interrupted by an affair with a married professor that renders her a single mother, Jessica Speight faces wrenching questions about responsibility, potential, and compassion when her sunny child reveals unique needs.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
Edition: First U.S. edition
ISBN: 9780544158900
Characteristics: 291 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

DBRL_IdaF Aug 30, 2017

“Her concern for Anna was a constant ache. Anna was the apple of her eye and the thorn in her heart.”

Anna is the pure gold baby - Jess's daughter. Jess, the anthropologist who has done no field work since Anna was born, beautiful and good-natured. She floats through the world on a slow, gentle breeze, remaining a child.

The narrator of the story is Jess's close friend, Eleanor. We don't learn Eleanor's name until well into the book. As she says, she's not telling her own story, but that of Jess and Anna.

What's this book about? Hmm. It's not conventionally plotted. There is no countdown to a critical event, no bomb to be defused, no race for anything. It's about how we value each other, how our lives don't turn out like we expected, but maybe that's okay in a lot of ways. How there's a lot of struggle and heartache, and how it's sometimes offset by love and friendship and acceptance. It's often about things Jess doesn't do. How she doesn't take any more research trips back to Africa, she doesn't ever move from the house where she's lived since Anna was a baby. It's about how she doesn't find answers and how she lives with that.

Anna is never diagnosed for the reader, though some of her classmates are. Some of them respond to treatments, medications, interventions and some of them go on to live independently. Not Anna. She simply is who she is, a human being more than a human doing. And she's happy, not realizing there will probably come a day when she has no mother to take care of her.

“Anna, as we have seen, made no progress at all. She was becalmed. There was not story to her life, no plot.” I wonder if that passage was included to answer anticipated criticism - as if the author is implying, "Yes, I am doing this on purpose. I've been writing for decades and I know what I'm about."

Anyone who has dealt with any kind of institution serving large numbers of children (or adults), especially those with special needs of some kind, will recognize many of the conversations and dynamics. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Victoria, the mother we have all met and maybe been a time or two. The teachers don't understand her boy, and besides that, the curtains are crooked. “The mad mothers of the mad children. Why should they not cry out? Why should they politely accept their tragedies? Why should they subdue themselves?”

If I'm including too many quotes in this review, it's because I'm in love with Drabble's use of language to evoke emotion.

hedgehag Jan 19, 2014

I usually finish all the books I start. This one is an exception. Too boring, too pedantic, too confusing. Not sure of the point, nothing interesting ever happens and I don't find myself even learning anything new.

Dec 30, 2013

A nice holiday read. Not especially interesting or challenging (apart from the prolific use of the word 'proleptic' which I still can't quite figure out)....

Aug 17, 2013

This story is about the social conscience and moral compass of a generaton. It covers big topics like art, medicine, relationships, education and mental health. It is well paced and the writing is good (perhaps not to my liking but still very good). However I had some major issues with it.The storyline was constantly going off on tangents. I also felt very detached to the characters. I was an observer but I never felt conncected to any of the characters at any point. I was confused by the role of the narrator. She would be telling the story objectively as a 3rd party and then suddently make a personel comment about her role in a particular scene. It was disorienting. Overall this book was an interresting snapshot of a moment in time but I can't say I really enjoyed the experience.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SCCLD

To Top