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:: Strangers (not on a train)

Strangers, by Anita Brookner. Another minute examination of character. She's good, of course, as always; brilliant at describing nuances of emotion to a microscopic degree, like fine pen-and-ink sketches. I enjoy her books because I often identify with their main characters: quiet, bookish women, observers of life rather than livers of it, baffled but admiring spectators of the more irresponsible, egotistic, demanding women around them, who seem to be almost a different species from themselves. (Although I must admit I meet fewer of those as I get older; perhaps they don't wear well...)

But this wasn't one of her best, I thought. For one thing, there's a man, Sturgis, as the central character and she's better with women. For another, Sturgis -- a man in his seventies, alone and occasionally lonely, meditating on what it means to grow old without family or close friends, who finally decides to strike out and try something new, even though he admits to himself it may be too late -- doesn't seem to have enough complexity to sustain such a lengthy exploration. He goes in mental circles quite a bit. Hotel du Lac, the one she won the Booker Prize for and which I still measure all her novels against, has Edith Hope, a very complex, self-analytical main character who learns some crucial truths about herself in the course of the book; Sturgis just doesn't seem to have the same depth, nor does he seem to come to any profound self-realization. It could be of course that I read Hotel du Lac at a B&B in Germany while my ex and I were on our honeymoon; that tends to lend things a romantic and satisfying aura. But I've revisited it several times and it's held up very, very well indeed. (Much better, in fact, than my ex...)

So meh; it's ok for a rainy Sunday afternoon but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. If you want to try a Brookner go for Hotel du Lac, or The Debut, or Brief Lives.



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