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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  162 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In her superbly accomplished new novel, Anita Brookner proves that she is our mast profound observer of women's lives, posing questions about feminine identity and desire with a stylishness that conveys an almost sensual pleasure.

From the moment Jane Manning first meets her aunt Dolly, she is both fascinated and appalled. Where Jane is tactful and shy, Dolly is flamboyant

Published (first published 1994)
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May 27, 2008 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Henry James and Edith Wharton fans
Imagine, if you will, a sixty-plus lady dressed in minks who really wishes to lead a grand life but doesn't have the means to do so. A lady who wears silk dresses even in the rain, would rather go hungry than go without scent, and is convinced everything will be all right as long as one remains ultra-feminine and has plenty of charm. A lady who is so unbelievably selfish and greedy that she is actually offended when relatives in whom she has never shown much interest but from whom she has been s...more
I read a blog review somewhere that compared Brookner's books to still, deep pools. I get the comparison - her writing is very internal, psychological, character-driven, not plotty. This is one of the best I've read so far. Jane is an appealing narrator - a bit distanced, but that fits with the quiet, ruminative family in which she was raised. Her aunt Dolly is a selfish, almost ridiculous character one loves to hate, until Brookner works her magic and makes the reader actually sympathize with h...more
As with all of Brookner's books, there's very little action and most of the writing focuses on character development, especially women. I think we've all known a Dolly in our life, someone who feels about money, "You have it, I need it". I must admit, I'd love to live in the time when I could have had a full-time maid, especially one who whips up little party treats (and it turns out so did Dolly's friends). I think Brookner was heavy-handed in the contrast of how extroverted Dolly was compared...more
Rachel Jones
Loved the Grey Gardens in novel form! But 58 pages in and only one event had been described, the rest was expository and it didn't seem like it was going to let up anytime soon. I'm really disappointed.
Heather Denkmire
If I don't finish it, does it count as "read?"

I just can't take it anymore.

The reviews had me convinced I *should* enjoy this. I found it boring, dull, dry, slow, surface, and just generally too much effort. On page 112 I thought, "this is sort of interesting now." But another fifteen or so pages in, I can't make myself finish it. I despise putting down a book. My ego is bruised. I've lost the battle.

Clearly, Brookner can write with an impressive vocabulary. Her tone is "old fashioned" or maybe...more
An excellent book - I love everything by Anita Brookner.
Frances Sawaya
This was recommended by a friend (who also led me to Anne Tyler) with the comment that Brookner is the British AT. For me this was true to a small extent, both are respectful of their characters and both can give views into cultural aspects of the times. Those were about the only similarities that jumped out at me. The style for "Dolly" was like a layer cake that kept having copious amounts if icing layer over all. Skill prose with a focus on character but not much on plot development. "Looking...more
For some reason less satisfying than most Brookner I have read. A lot of energy is expended in fleshing out Dolly's portrait, but Jane feels oddly unfinished. This is especially apparent in the coda, which focuses primarily on Jane and seems tacked-on, as though it's introducing a new character instead of completing the story of a familiar one.

Also, I've often had the feeling, when reading Brookner, of wanting to give the main character a good slap; this time the urge was overwhelming.
Jane grows up fascinated by her aunt Dolly yet put off by her behavior. Dolly wanted the grand life even if it wasn't something she could afford, which she faults on others. She is selfish and thrives on her social life. She can't be bothered to be there for her niece when her niece needs her the most.
I found the book a boring at first. About halfway through, it picked up but I can't excepting more to the story.
I appreciated the skill of the author but I can't say I enjoyed a lot about the book. It's slow, so very English, and I kept having to remind myself this was the 1970's not the turn of the century. I did enjoy the deft word-smithing and vocabulary of the author. I read this for bookclub and cannot recommend it to be read simply for pleasure.
I had tried Hotel du Lac but found it so depressing and miserable, I couldn't finish it. Still, a friend pressed me on, encouraging me to read more Anita Brookner. I tried this book and forced myself to finish it. I loathed the narrator.
Very slow book but when I finished it I was glad I read it. Deep on characterization - the "but" is that sometimes I didn't quite belief the motives the narrator ascribed to Dolly. Nice setting of mood and isolation/lonliness.
I'm not sure I agreed with any of Brookner's characters, but she has an undeniable gift for creating characters who are sympathetic, despite being far from perfect.
Susannah J.
Another quiet heroine who has the ability to hide away. I envy this ability of Anita Brookner's characters.
An interesting journey through family relationships to a kind of gentle realization.
A bit chilly like many of hers but engaging. Some beautiful sentences.
Christine O'sullivan
This book is one of my all-time favorites.
Excellent writing, believable story.
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