I really did mean to blog about this ages ago but got caught up in other things as explained in recent posts, but I’m really keen to write about it now in case you haven’t come across it yet, because it was so absorbing.

Pattern in the Carpet is subtitled “a personal history with jigsaws” which is a lovely description of a wonderful, ostensibly rambling but actually probably very carefully constructed book.

And it’s important to say that I really enjoyed this book and dashed off to a cupboard in my study where I believe  my own collection of jigsaws are stashed but couldn’t actually get to them because of other stuff.

Margaret Drabble is very clear what’s important to her about the toys/games/pastimes/whatever you call them:

one of the reasons why the jigsaw appeals to me, as I have already suggested, is that it is pre-made, its limits finite, its frame fixed. […] It can’t be done badly. Slowly, but not badly. All one needs is patience. […] in this aspect , the jigsaw is the very opposite of the novel.

It’s a book full of learning, reminiscences, anecdotes and the kind of information that I absolutely love to store away and drop into conversation and (if I’m ever invited) pub trivia quizzes. Such as the fact that Paternoster Row, which used to have lots of bookshops, was “wiped out in all but name on the night of 29 December 1940, along with six million books.” Six million books, can you imagine?

There is a great deal about children’s education over the centuries and how jigsaws came to be, but in the end she feels that she “has strayed far from my plan , which was to write a brief illustrated history of the jigsaw puzzle.” And I’m glad she did because this is so much richer being as much I think about memory and family as anything else.

There is so much to this book and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll finish with my favourite quote which is about Margaret Drabble’s father:

I don’t know whether or not he believed in God, but he would certainly have liked to be able to do so, and he behaved as though he did

Please give this a try.

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