She went on to write 23 more in the next 28 years. I had never heard of her when I read her obituary, so in keeping with my custom of reading books by recently deceased authors, I read her Man Booker Prize winning novel from , Hotel du Lac. As in the Hotel du Lac, this novel is about a single woman who is lonely and wants much more out of life. Francis works as a librarian in a medical research institute, a job she values and enjoys.
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Reading is an intellectual exercise and as a writer, I can claim it as work but I binge only when writers offer me pleasure. I endorse this immersive way of reading, especially when it comes to Anita Brookner. The child of immigrants understands her countrymen, while seeing them as they cannot see themselves. Brookner studied art history with the infamous Soviet spy Anthony Blunt , put out well-received scholarly books, joined the faculty at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
A most impressive life. Then, at the age of 53, she published a novel. Those of us dismayed by lists of successful people under 30 should take heart.
In the ensuing 28 years, she published 23 more and one slim novella. Upon finishing it, I went to the Strand and bought copies of every one of her novels. The prevailing criticism of Brookner is that her work is repetitive.
There are concerns she returns to: the single woman who wishes not to be, the dutiful daughter overwhelmed by filial obligation, the family that is not unhappy but not quite happy. I find such intelligence and vitality in her books that it does not bother me that they amount to variations on a theme.
This last was a haven of coolness, even of gloom, yet it was deserted, except for discreet knots of American ladies looking at snuff boxes in glass cases. Some readers will see this as bathos; I see it as bliss. She depicts women struggling to make lives for themselves, or to make peace with the lives they have.
They show us people who are mediocre — as most people seem to be — yet nevertheless interesting. I also see a lesson in the ways the author chooses to ignore the received wisdom about the novel as a form. I used to wish I could tell her this, that my admiration might make her feel, if fleetingly, less like the loneliest woman in London. I no longer wish that, as it seems disrespectful as well as wrong.
Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature. Hotel du Lac Her best-known work which received the Booker Prize in something of an upset is about a romance novelist on holiday in Switzerland.
Dolly This story of a young woman and her elderly, quite monstrous aunt surprises by showing how family bonds can endure over the years. Fraud A woman of a certain age goes missing.
The five best Anita Brookner novels
Anita Brookner. Photo: Rex Features The British novelist Anita Brookner, who died last year at age eighty-seven, suffered from the most misleading of literary reputations. Over the course of several decades and an astonishing twenty-four novels, including the Booker Prize—winning Hotel du Lac, the prevailing myth held that Brookner wrote conservative, middlebrow stories about dull and repressed women. If Austen popularized the marriage plot, Brookner upended it, immersing us in the emotionally clandestine lives of mistresses and other romantic misfits. Cheated-on wives, in her portrayal, are too self-centered, ruthless, and confident to warrant our compassion. In any case, their marriages and invariably privileged lives are never in jeopardy. The gift for demanding attention is, in Brookner-land, the defining characteristic of the successfully married woman.
Look at Me
Share via Email Anita Brookner in The sensitive and intelligent and weak are preyed upon by the unintelligent and strong; profoundly private women elect, for their own purposes, to build their lives around the absent men who hardly know them. The themes have an exotic flavour these days, they smell of an irretrievable past. The novels of the first decades have stronger stories and more characters, more happens. In Latecomers two Jewish boys, Thomas Hartmann and Thomas Fibich, are sent to London as refugees in the war and become lifelong friends. We follow them into their youth, marriages, fatherhood. In his middle age, Fibich suddenly needs to make the journey back to the railway station in Berlin where he parted from his mother for the last time.
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