Jerusalem the Golden’s less than shining start with critics

Margaret Drabble’s early novel received some very lukewarm reviews, which scolded it for perceived weaknesses that seem much less apparent 50 years on

Jerusalem the Golden hasn’t been out of print since its publication in 1967. Today, it is a Penguin Classic and feels as safely established as they come. But it wasn’t always like that. If the reviews I’ve found from 1967 are at all representative, it seems that when this book first came out, plenty of people didn’t like it.

The New York Times complained that the London section of the novel is “less interesting”, that Clara’s lover Gabriel is “not well drawn” – and his wife Philippa is “inexplicable”. Kirkus Reviews, meanwhile, called Clara “totally ignorant, particularly in social and sexual spheres”. This ignorance, we are told, is “explained, if not overexplained … by the fact that Clara comes from an economically and emotionally penurious home ...