Books: A Web of the Way We Live Now THE RADIANT WAY

by Margaret Drabble; Knopf; 408 pages; $18.95

This novel marks another step in one of the most interesting careers in contemporary letters. It has taken a while for that shoe to drop. The Middle Ground, British Author Margaret Drabble's ninth novel, appeared in 1980 and underscored a process that had begun several books earlier: a movement away from the narrow, intense psychological portraits of her early fiction (A Summer Bird-Cage, The Garrick Year) toward panoramas of realistic characters placed in a recognizable society. Drabble's progress was retrograde, running against the modern notion that fiction should be deep and singular rather than broad and general. Her models -- Dickens,...