Losers

Frank Kermode

  • Family and Friends by Anita Brookner
    Cape, 187 pp, £8.95, September 1985, ISBN 0 224 02337 3

So far as the evidence of five novels goes, Anita Brookner has one basic theme, which she varies with considerable and increasing technical resource. All five books are quite short, and all have some of the qualities of what James called the beautiful and blest nouvelle, since they are intensive in plot and on the whole refuse the temptation to broaden into novels. This limitation, if that is the right word, is not at all the consequence of any diffidence or lack of skill in the registration of milieu or of character: Brookner is good at both, so we had best say we are dealing with works that exist in a no man’s land between two genres. We should be glad of this, for we escape on one side the danger of an obsessed narrowness of treatment, and on the other some possibility of failure consequent on the too obvious stretching of the great central topic, which is, after all, the central topic of long romantic novels already in existence, and usually lacking the humour as well as the fineness of the pathetic moments in this writer.

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