Living with a little halibut

John Bayley

  • Fraud by Anita Brookner
    Cape, 224 pp, £14.99, August 1992, ISBN 0 224 03315 8

The novel and story depend a good deal on mystery. Pip has great expectations – where do they come from? – but more important, who is Pip, and what is he after? Everyone can be made to seem both banal and mysterious. The Sherlock Holmes tales exploit both the puzzle and the adventure, and the humdrum oddness of the society in which they take place: but writers who are cunning by nature or naturally fortunate know that mysteries are not there to be 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.

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