Books: Cold Comfort

THE ICE AGE by Margaret Drabble

Knopf; 295 pages; $8.95

Typically, Margaret Drabble's heroines have been wry, intelligent women pitting their vivid psyches against their drab or otherwise unsatisfying outer lives. Her eighth novel alters this formula. Characters, female and male, no longer have the luxury of pursuing self-fulfillment or fretting about personal unhappiness. They are too preoccupied with current events —with the drama of England's economic decline, featuring a cast of millions of involuntary bit players.

Drabble focuses on a much smaller group, all of whose lives have been unpleasantly affected by political...

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