“They sat islanded in their foreignness, irrelevant now that the holiday season had ended, anachronistic, outstaying their welcome, no longer necessary to anyone’s plans. Priorities had shifted; the little town was settling down for its long uninterrupted hibernation. No one came here in the winter. The weather was too bleak, the snow too distant, the amenities too sparse to tempt visitors. And they felt that the backs of the residents had been turned on them with a sigh of relief, reminding them of their transitory nature, their fundamental unreality. And when Monica at last succeeded in ordering coffee, they still sat, glumly, for another ten minutes, before the busy waitress remembered their order.
‘Homesick,’ said Edith finally. ‘Yes.’ But she thought of her little house as if it had existed in another life, another dimension. She thought of it as something to which she might never return. The seasons had changed since she last saw it; she was no longer the person who could sit up in bed in the early morning and let the sun warm her shoulders and the light make her impatient for the day to begin. That sun, that light had faded, and she had faded with them. Now she was as grey as the season itself. She bent her head over her coffee, trying to believe that it was the steam rising from the cup that was making her eyes prick. This cannot go on, she thought.” (Anita Brookner – Hotel du Lac)
Now I like Anita Brookner – although I accept that she is an acquired taste. In July she will be 85 – and I thought it might be nice to honour such a prolific and well thought of British author with an Anita Brookner reading month. Brookner published her first novel A Start in Life in 1981 when she was 53 – since then publishing a novel almost every year.
Anita Brookner’s writing is beautifully poignant – maybe to be avoided if you are feeling down, but I do find her portrayal of small disappointed middle class lives to be exquisitely done. The themes of her novels are largely those of loss, disappointment and fitting into society, her characters are often lonely or isolated in some way. There is no one who captures the mood of rainy London streets at dusk, or the sadness of a Sunday afternoon like Brookner.
So July it will be – a chance to read her for the first time, or like me to read novels which you already have TBR. I have gone for a month rather than a week – as it gives people chance to dip in and out – maybe reading an Anita Brookner novel at the beginning of the month and another at the end of the month. I have to admit that Brookner is probably not an author whose novels I would want to read too closely together. However I do have five Brookner TBR – and this will be a good chance to get at least some of those read.
Anita Brookner has published twenty four novels – her last full length novel was published in 2009, since then there has been a novella published exclusively as an ebook. Of these I have read eleven. So there are still plenty that I could choose from, as I intend to read ones I have not read yet rather than revisit ones I’ve already read.
This is the list of Brookner works according to Wikipedia.
• A Start in Life (1981, US title The Debut)
• Providence (1982)
• Look at Me (1983)
• Hotel du Lac (1984), which won the Booker Prize
• Family and Friends (1985)
• A Misalliance (1986)
• A Friend from England (1987)
• Latecomers (1988)
• Lewis Percy (1989)
• Brief Lives (1990)
• A Closed Eye (1991)
• Fraud (1992)
• A Family Romance (1993, US title Dolly)
• A Private View (1994)
• Incidents in the Rue Laugier (1995)
• Altered States (1996)
• Visitors (1997)
• Falling Slowly (1998)
• Undue Influence (1999)
• The Bay of Angels (2001)
• The Next Big Thing (2002, US title Making Things Better), longlisted for the Booker Prize
• The Rules of Engagement (2003)
• Leaving Home (2005)
• Strangers (2009)
• At The Hairdressers (2011), novella, available as an ebook only
So I do hope that some of you will join me in reading some Anita Brookner in July. I would be grateful if you could all help spread the word, I know that there are many Brookner fans out there – and it would be nice to reach some of them.
Now then for the techy bit – lots of people hosting reading weeks/months/challenges have a snazzy little button to go with it. I haven’t got one – last time I tried (and sort of succeeded) in making one – I nearly had a breakdown and needed loads of techy help – so I’m not going there again. If there is anyone out there who likes doing that kind of thing and wants to make one for me – I would be hugely grateful. Otherwise I am sure we can manage without a snazzy little button.
If you don’t have any Brookner novels and want to join in, UK readers may I point you towards your local charity shops, almost all the Brookner novels I have now and have read in the past have come from charity shops – I see them all the time.