The heroine of Margaret Drabble's new novel is on first sight pretty depressing, and supposed to be so. The opening part of The Seven Sisters is in the form of Candida Wilton's diary, written from the time she moves to a modest flat in London after the break-up of her marriage. Despite her incongruously glamorous name, she is the middle-aged, discarded wife of a headmaster from Suffolk. Her children, whom she doesn't like, are grown up and have, surprisingly, sided with their father in the divorce. She has very little money and, apart from being a headmaster's wife and bringing up her three daughters, her only work has been filling in to teach the occasional French lesson. This presumably explains why she maddeningly peppers her journal with the interpolation 'en effet'.