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Undue Influence

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  378 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Undue Influence is the nineteenth 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 release
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 27th 2000 by Penguin (first published July 29th 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nandakishore Varma
Novels can be plot-driven, character-driven or idea-driven: it is generally accepted that serious "literary" fiction is mostly of the last two categories. In character-driven stories, rather than events, it is the development and analysis of human nature that takes front stage. The events are just a backdrop. Skillfully executed, they are sometimes more exciting than the wildest adventure story; however, when the execution falls flat (as in Undue Influence by Anita Brookner), the result is a dis ...more
Apr 25, 2017 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four and a half.

Brookner's writing is reflective, elegant and absorbing. Solitary, inhibited lives and loneliness are a significant thread binding her novels. The prose in this slim book is wonderfully light, singularly engaging, quietly skilled and most profound.

Thank you so much Mary for sending me this novel! I found it an immersing read.
Jun 29, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first of my Brookner in July reads – I hope to do one or two more this month of Brookner reading.
Claire Pitt is an attractive young woman, living alone in the mansion flat where her mother died. Although not really in need of money, Claire has taken a job in a book shop owned by octogenarian sisters Muriel and Hester. Claire works in the dusty basement on the sister’s father’s papers. She enjoys the work, becomes fascinated by the man whose articles she is painstakingly transcribing from pil
Feb 24, 2008 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why even bother? Anita Brookner just keeps writing the same goddamned book. Over and over and over. Surprise, surprise - the main protagonist is another one of those sensitive, bookish, brooding, pathetic, lonely unmarried women. Who pines for TRUE LUV.

And keeps on pining. And pining. And pining. And whining.

As with the other two Brookner novels I've read, somewhere around the 100-page mark, the urge becomes almost irresistible to reach into the book, smack the main character smartly around the
Francene Carroll
I have a strange relationship with Anita Brookner's novels and this one was no exception. Although they ultimately leave me feeling dissatisfied and I often want to shake some sense in her heroines and tell them to get some backbone, I find that when I start reading one of her books I can't put it down till I'm finished.
Apr 12, 2012 Diane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh! I kept thinking this book would get better. I was wrong! It took me a long time to get through it, reading several other books in between trying to finish this. It wasn't worth it; I shouldn't have wasted my time.
Aug 22, 2012 Fiona rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction

If by page 50, I just don't care what is going to happen, it's time to stop. Life is too short. Claire is not a character to whom I was drawn and I would not look forward to dinner with her any more than her friend did.
Jan 24, 2008 Annie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Pretentious twaddle - my first and last by this author!!
Jul 09, 2015 Konstantin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: serious, j-adore
[rating = B+]
"I had already reached that point in which the other's opinion of one seals one fate, so that imperceptibly one agrees with the other's reaction" Anita Brookner, who died recently in March is an author that has inspired my own writing. This novel is on par with her "Fraud" and "Hotel du Lac". You must be in a certain mood to read her careful, pristine, full and rich prose. She reminds me of a combination of Alice Munro, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, and Anne Tyler. She is sensitive a
May 21, 2012 SarahC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very introspective story of main character Claire Pitt's looking at past and present to find her place in life. So much is going on in this story, with the overriding events being those of loss through death, being displaced from a job, and developing relationships unexpectedly. It is far more a psychological study than it is chick lit. I am not familiar with Anita Brookner, but I expect reading her own commentary of this novel would be fascinating. With only the book to go by, I feel ...more
Jim Fonseca
Oct 19, 2013 Jim Fonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have the stereotypical lonely female book store clerk surrounded by old ladies - her widowed mother and the two elderly spinsters she works for. Her only girlfriend has a married lover but they do not confide in each other about the most important things in their lives. If there is a single theme to this work, it is loneliness. Our lonely heroine eventually gets involved with a recent widower with a predictable outcome. The rap on Brookner is that she writes the same book over and over. That' ...more
May 03, 2012 Mikkee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get past page 75. I even tried taking a break and coming back to it. No luck. The writing did not draw me in at all. My mind kept wandering instead of being drawn into the story. I just didn't care. It is very rare for me to not finish a book, but this did not engage me at any level.
Deb Oestreicher
Jul 27, 2011 Deb Oestreicher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of Brookner, but found this much less rewarding than anything else I've read by her. The word that comes to mind is "unrelieved." The character lives in a solitude that is entirely unrelieved (in spite of a "friend" or two); and the reader, closing the book, feels herself equally unrelieved.
Jeffrey Stalk
The message of this book is that real life may be boring at times but substituting an imagined life can get you into trouble. Although the premise of the book is interesting, the pace is slow and very little happens, so that it barely held my attention.
Jan 22, 2017 Glenys rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am always ambivalent about Anita Brookner's novels. As a stylist and observer I would give her five stars, as an enjoyable read with narrative drive, one. Hence my mean rating (in both senses). The relentlessly introspective protagonist is beautifully observed; the tragedy of this psychologically trapped, socially impoverished young woman is almost unbearable. She rationalises her life choices to help her survive her unmet need but despite her long and detailed analyses of others' inner worlds ...more
Mar 02, 2015 DGT rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator and central character, Claire Pitt, describes herself, mostly accurately, as a “mental stalker”. Aged 29 and left alone in her family by the death of her widowed mother, with whom she shared her parents’ very middle-class flat, she imaginatively elaborates upon the lives of the few people she knows or knew: her parents; a close friend, Wiggy, with whom she keeps their respective intimate relations at a distance; the misses Hester and Muriel, for whom she works in a musty and special ...more
I found it fairly uninspiring and rather slow.
Jenny Diels
Mar 09, 2017 Jenny Diels rated it it was ok
Started off okay but got very boring near the end; I skimmed the last few chapters.
Jun 29, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it
Don't read an Anita Brookner novel if liking the main character, wanting to sit down with her over a cup of coffee and chat, matters to you. Her characters are hard to like and impossible to feel any warmth for. They don't feel any particular warmth for anyone else, either, although they often know that their lack of genuine warmth and connectedness is a problem; they just have no idea what to do about it. Like most Brookner heroines, Claire is restrained and self-controlled to the point of bein ...more
Anita Brookner won the Booker Prize for Fiction for her fourth book, Hotel du Lac, in 1984. Undue Influence, her 19th book, was published in 1999.
Brookner’s lyrical and engaging prose draws us skilfully into the unreliable world of Claire Pitt, a single 29 year old living alone following the recent death of her mother. We experience this world wholly through the eyes and rich imaginings of Claire, who has lived a fairly ordinary and structured life caring for an aging mother and working for two
Sep 23, 2012 Otherwyrld rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-group
I would have liked to have given this book 1 1/2 stars - I didn't actively hate it, but I didn't really like it that much either. As someone who prefers reading plot driven stories, a character driven story like this one was always going to be difficult, but it would have been easier if I had actually liked any of the characters concerned. I particularly disliked Claire, the narrator and main subject of the book. Her passivity, lack of self-esteem and willingness to take the blame for everything ...more
Dec 13, 2011 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 I love Anita Brookner and don't know how I missed this when it was first published. I was reading a book of essays and reviews of books by Joyce Carol Oates, and this was one of the few books she liked. I was actually a tad disappointed. Claire Pitt is a youngish woman who works in the basement of a second hand bookstore compiling articles about Joseph Collier- father of the the current bookstore owners. A man visits the store, whom Claire ends up becoming involved with- Martin- who asks C ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Apr 10, 2014 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it liked it
Shelves: paperback
This book seems distinctly anachronous. Anita Brookner's single lady with her own means, inherited London flat, a bit of a job in a bookshop that she doesn't really need, deceased parents etc seems to belong to a different era than the 1999 world where this book was published. But in among the distinct lack of plot here there's a Big Issue seller, answering machines and other things that place the book in a time it seems not to fit into very well. It's all distinctly old fashioned. On the whole ...more
Mar 09, 2008 Leslie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ack. Long-winded descriptive inner narration by Claire, a single woman who ponders the state of her loneliness after having cared for her mother who dies. Claire gets and loses the “perfect job” in a used bookstore, meets and beds a handsome wealthy widow who she knows is above her and who will leave her which he does (for his deceased wife’s nurse). The only reason I finished it was that it’s so short and narrated in the first person, and I wanted to read this well-known British author. Parts o ...more
Jun 29, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, anglophilia
It seems to me that Anita Brookner is repeating herself, or writing the same book over and over. A single, lonely woman with enough money and an undemanding job drifts through London, interacting with no more than a handful of friends and acquaintances. She spends her days thinking about other people's inner lives and usually makes huge miscalculations in regards to the man she's interested in, in this case, an attractive but weak former teacher married to a sickly sexual predator. The books are ...more
Milena Esherick
Dec 15, 2015 Milena Esherick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My favorite lines, pages 194-196: “You are not a whole human being. You lack empathy. . .You offer a great deal and you withhold a great deal. You offer your attributes, your looks, your grace, even your social position. Women succumb eagerly, and are in turn baffled by your withdrawal into a sort of solitude. . .A woman wants more. . . an unmasking, so that it will become possible to meet on every level. . . If I were to love you I would be utterly defeated.”
Jane Anne
Jul 27, 2011 Jane Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first Brookner that I read remains my fave. Tale of an interesting single girl who falls for the WRONG guy .... U say to yourself, 'Well, this CAN work out...[the relationship]. But as in real life, one can't ignore those FATAL FLAWS! My other fave is LOOK AT ME. Same subject! RUN, DO NOT WALK, AND GET THESE TWO!
Feb 18, 2008 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the introspective!
Sometimes you just need a little Anita Brookner. While not my favorite of her many books, Brookner always manages to pull me in when the mood is right. Her characters live very much inside themeselves viewing life as outsiders looking in.
Dec 29, 2010 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
With what a cool eye Brookner views women! A perfect illustration is this passage from "Undue Influence:"

In speaking of her mother, just widowed, she writes, "She had always struck me as a contented woman. She belonged to the era before women complained."

Jan 15, 2011 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written and intelligent. That being said, the plot confused me because I could never understand the heroine's fascination with such a boring man. I hope she turned over a new leaf after the book was finished.
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Anita Brookner published her first novel, A Start In Life in 1981. Her most notable novel, her fourth, Hotel du Lac won the Man Booker Prize in 1984. Her novel, The Next Big Thing was longlisted (alongside John Banville's, Shroud) in 2002 for the Man Booker Prize. She has published over 25 works of fiction, notably: Strangers (2009) shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Fraud (1992) ...more
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“Boundaries keep people out; mine served only to keep me in.” 0 likes
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