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16 April 1981
... Precipitations fall thickly and heavily in Abel Gance’s Napoleon: snow in the courtyard of the college in Brienne, feathers from savaged pillows, rain and hail on the drums at the siege of Toulon, song-sheets fluttering down at the National Convention, confetti at the extraordinary Bal des Victimes, at which everyone present had to have lost a relative on the scaffold or to have been reprieved himself ...
8 October 1992
Fraud 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 224 03315 8
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... solved. Todorov said that Henry James’s stories mostly depend on a query and a riddle, which their endings formulate with complete artistry but without solving: the puzzle is itself the solution. AnitaBrookner is a good hand at something similar. In her latest novel there is naturally something wrong with the heroine: a wrongness emphasised by the banal Kensingtonian calm in which she lives. When ...

Wintry Lessons

Dinah Birch: Anita Brookner

27 June 2002
The Next Big Thing 
by Anita Brookner.
Viking, 247 pp., £16.99, June 2002, 0 670 91302 2
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... AnitaBrookner’s first novel appeared in 1981. Since then she has published it again, slightly altered, almost every year. It is a remarkable feat. Nor is it irrelevant to what she has to say, for quiet ...
1 October 1987
A Friend from England 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 205 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 224 02443 4
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The New Confessions 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 241 12383 6
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The Colour of Blood 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 182 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 224 02513 9
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... AnitaBrookner’s novels have been preoccupied with women who feel themselves to be profoundly separate. This may be the result of either choice or necessity, or of stoically making a choice of necessity. They are ...

Losers

Frank Kermode

5 September 1985
Family and Friends 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 187 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 224 02337 3
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... So far as the evidence of five novels goes, AnitaBrookner 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 ...

Ruined by men

Anthony Thwaite

1 September 1988
The Truth about Lorin Jones 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 294 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 7181 3095 2
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Latecomers 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 248 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 224 02554 6
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Where the rivers meet 
by John Wain.
Hutchinson, 563 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 9780091736170
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About the Body 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 193 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 436 09784 2
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Stories 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 312 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 670 82113 6
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... warning to biographers, forced to see the ‘multiple, discontinuous identities’ of their subjects atomically splitting under their eyes. Much of The Truth about Lorin Jones is made up of dialogue. AnitaBrookner, in Latecomers, almost does without it. The few lives (substantially, four) she has created have been so displaced, made so uncertain, in a past that is itself so blankly mysterious, that it ...
14 September 1989
Lewis Percy 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 261 pp., £11.95, August 1989, 0 224 02668 2
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Sexing the cherry 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Bloomsbury, 167 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0464 4
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Fludd 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 186 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 670 82118 7
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... Verses, fantasy will never look cosy again. For some writers, however, taking wing into fable remains an indulgence. No novelist has offered sterner resistance to the glamour of magic realism than AnitaBrookner, meticulously recording the particularities of everyday compromise. Nevertheless, she too has thought deeply about the need to rewrite fairy stories. Her new novel is a searching study of ...

Missing Mother

Graham Robb: Romanticism

19 October 2000
Romanticism and Its Discontents 
by Anita Brookner.
Viking, 208 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 670 89212 2
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... the greatest possible pleasure to their great-grandfathers.’ For Baudelaire, ‘whoever says Romanticism, says modern art.’ In her discreetly original study of Romanticism and Its Discontents, AnitaBrookner quotes Alfred de Musset’s satire, Lettres de Dupuis et Cotonet (1836-37). Dupuis and Cotonet are two literal-minded provincials who spend 12 years trying to find out what Romanticism is ...

Ventures

Susannah Clapp

10 November 1988
The Suzy Lamplugh Story 
by Andrew Stephen.
Faber, 198 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 571 15152 3
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... story’ – though it was the Lamplughs, not a ravening mob, who had approached the publishers with the idea for this book, and the publishers were free to say no. Andrew Stephen had one defender in AnitaBrookner – but the effectiveness of her attack on his attackers was diminished by its appearing in the Observer while that paper was ending its serialisation of the book. He also mounted his own ...

Mme de Blazac and I

Anita Brookner

19 June 1997
... When I first went to Paris as a student I was directed, by an association set up to sort out the problems not so much of visiting students as of indigent widows with large apartments, to Mme de Blazac in the rue des Marronniers, in the 16th arrondissement. Initially, the rue des Marronniers struck me as a haven of suburban rectitude: I did not then know that it was expensive. Mme de Blazac, unlike ...

Fearless Solipsist

Anita Brookner

31 July 1997
Colette 
by Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier.
Perrin, 439 pp., frs 139, April 1997, 2 262 01224 5
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... It pays to take a romantic view of oneself; distinction is only tardily conceded by others. In the business of self-assessment – which was her business – Colette was never far from self-promotion. This endeavour sustained her through three marriages, numerous love affairs, and, more important in her own estimation, 49 volumes, some of them admittedly slight. She expressed admiration for George ...

Daddy’s Girl

Anita Brookner

22 December 1983
Fathers: Reflections by Daughters 
edited by Ursula Owen.
Virago, 224 pp., £5.50, November 1983, 9780860683940
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... This disturbing, even unpleasing book arose out of a reaction from which only a nerveless and protected minority are saved. As a child, the editor, Ursula Owen, found a photograph of her father which showed him in an attitude, a guise, that seemed to her ‘uncharacteristic’. It was not simply the fact that he was a German Jew and was photographed wearing the uniform of a colonel in the British Army ...

Passion

Anita Brookner

7 October 1982
The President’s Child 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 220 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 340 24564 6
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Silence among the Weapons 
by John Arden.
Methuen, 343 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 413 49670 8
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The Facilitators, or Mister Hole-in-the-Day 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 173 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7100 9214 8
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Pleasure City 
by Kamala Markandaya.
Chatto, 341 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 7011 2617 5
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Worldly Goods 
by Michael Korda.
Bodley Head, 347 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 370 30932 4
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Dutch Shea Jr 
by John Gregory Dunne.
Weidenfeld, 352 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 297 78164 2
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... The President’s Child works, effortlessly, on many levels. First, it is a political thriller. Isabel Rust, a television producer and former hack reporter, once had an affair with a man who is supposedly being groomed as Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Her apparently spotless marriage was hastily contrived by her to provide a home for herself and the child of that previous ...
21 July 1994
Rage and Fire: A Life of Louise Colet – Pioneer Feminist, Literary Star, Flaubert’s Muse 
by Francine du Plessix Gray.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, July 1994, 0 241 13256 8
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... In October 1879, Flaubert, then aged 57, invited Maupassant to dinner, informing him that there was a purpose behind this invitation. He wanted to burn some letters, and he did not want to do so alone. After a particularly good meal, Flaubert brought a heavy suitcase into his study and began to throw packets of letters into the fire, occasionally reading passages from them in his booming voice. This ...

Fatalism

Graham Hough

16 July 1981
A Start in Life 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 176 pp., £5.95, May 1981, 9780224018999
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Rhine Journey 
by Ann Schlee.
Macmillan, 165 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 333 28320 1
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The Sure Salvation 
by John Hearne.
Faber, 224 pp., £6.50, May 1981, 0 571 11670 1
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Beloved Latitudes 
by David Pownall.
Gollancz, 140 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 575 02988 9
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... Ann Schlee’s story ends with her heroine renouncing a fantasy and going to live in a cottage by herself, having made a small but definite act of defiance against a spiritually tyrannical brother. AnitaBrookner’s heroine ends as she began, writing a chapter on Eugénie Grandet in her book on Balzac, having lost a lover and acquired the duty of looking after a selfish and dependent father. The ...

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