At seventy-three, Herz is facing an increasingly bewildering world. He cannot see his place in it or even work out what to do with his final years. Questions and misunderstandings haunt Herz like old ghosts. Should he travel, sell his flat, or propose marriage to a friend he has not seen in thirty years? The letters he writes and does not send and the passers-by he encounters remind him how out of touch he is, how detached from the modern world.
"Would be stronger as a novella"
Undue Influence is the 19th novel by Anita Brookner, the Booker Prize-winning author of Hotel du Lac. Enigmatic Claire is 30 and lives alone. When she meets Martin Gibson, a faded scholar, she becomes inordinately interested. She is even more interested when she meets his wife, a far more spectacular personality. But the unexpected news of this woman's death releases emotions that were not entirely foreseen.
"An Affair that"
Beatrice considers herself to be delicate and sensitive, idle and confused. Forced into early retirement, she has an unashamed and romantic desire to be rescued by the ideal man. But Beatrice's only family is her orderly sister, Miriam.
"A True Artist"
When cautious Emma Roberts goes to France to carry out research into 17th century garden design, she finds a reliable diversion from her studies in her unlikely new friend Francoise Desnoyers, in whose beautiful house she is welcomed as a guest. She is not too dazzled to ignore the tensions that exist between Francoise and her formidable mother, or between Mme. Desnoyers and her other guests. London recedes into the background as life in France becomes more significant in every respect.
A novel about human relationships, focusing, unusually for Brookner, on two male characters. Hartmann and Fibich met at school and 40 years later they can no more think of living apart than of divorcing their wives. This book deals with their gradual coming to terms with the emotional gaps in their lives.
When Rachel becomes involved in the lives of the Livingstones it is with an acute appreciation of their home - beautifully furnished and richly decorated. They have won an undisclosed amount of money on the football pools. But rather than enjoy their new-found wealth, seem sadly resigned to it. They do, however, appear to take pleasure in the association between Rachel and their daughter Heather, seeing Rachel as a good influence. However, no one can foresee their own destiny.
"A friend indeed"
Born to elegant but frivolous parents, Harriet grows up ignored and unguided, and retains a curious innocence that neither her marriage to Freddie Lytton, nor her friendship with the beautiful Tessa can dispel. Freddie is far older than she is - a companion rather than a lover - and slightly disapproving of Tessa and her irresponsible, attractive husband, Jack. Yet all four are bound together: by their backgrounds, their children, by Harriet’s unspoken feelings for Jack and by the tragedy that lies in wait for all of them.
"From the inside"
Paul Sturgis is a retired bank manager who lives alone in a dark little flat. He walks alone and dines alone, seeking out and taking pleasure in small exchanges with strangers: the cheerful Australian girl who cuts his hair, the lady at the dry cleaners. His only relative - and only acquaintance - is a widowed cousin by marriage, herself a virtual stranger, to whom he pays ritualistic visits on a Sunday afternoon.
As the solitary child of mild and gentle parents, Jane is fascinated and astounded by her exotically European aunt, Dolly. Dolly’s ways are certainly not her parents’ ways, yet she is an object of interest and dread to her beleaguered relatives. It is clear that they have nothing in common: Jane feels no affection for Dolly, and Dolly clearly dislikes children. Yet the two are fated to go through life in uneasy harness, until such time as their alliance is accepted by both as not only inevitable, but as something of great value. Read by Fiona Shaw.
When Anna Durrant is reported missing her friends seem unconcerned at her disappearance. After all, her life has been one of concealment. For years Anna submitted to the protective dependence of her mother, and even after Amy Durrant’s death she simply conformed to the expectations of others. Increasingly, Anna feels herself trapped by these expectations.
"Top Shelf Brookner"
Elizabeth and Betsy are old school friends. Born in 1948 and unready for the sixties, they had high hopes of the lives they would lead, even though their circumstances were so different. When they meet again in their thirties, Elizabeth, married to the safe, older Digby, is relieving the boredom of a cosy but childless marriage with an affair. Betsy seems to have found real romance in Paris. Are their lives taking off, or are they just making more of the wrong choices without even realising it?
Moving between Nice and London, The Bay of Angels makes the point that not everyone needs conventional relationships to be happy. It relates the story of Zoe, whose life changes when her widowed mother marries a wealthy older man and moves to Nice.
"A "celebration" of passivity and death"