The Debut
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The Debut

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  213 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Since childhood Ruth Weiss has been escaping from life into books, and from the hothouse attentions of her tyrannical and eccentric parents into the gentler warmth of lovers and friends. Now Dr. Weiss, at forty, a quiet scholar devoted to the study of Balzac, is convinced that her life has been ruined by literature, and that once again she must make a new start in life.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 19th 1990 by Vintage
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This is a very odd little novel. After finishing it I went online to
read what other people have thought about it in an effort to clarify my own thoughts. It is generally considered to be loosely autobiographical in its depiction of Ruth's parents and her childhood in general. In fact, the author described her own parents as "just as bizarre but not quite so fetching" as the parents she created for Ruth in the novel.

The protagonist, Ruth Weiss, is a very passive person who never seems to question...more
Simply, this book made me sad. Ruth and her parents are so tragically transparent, you can’t help but feel for them. The entire book you are pushing for them, because you know what they want, why can’t they just figure it out? I was a little annoyed with the fact that Ruth’s parents played such a large role in the novel, as it wasn’t what I was expecting, especially since I found the chapters about Ruth herself so much more poignant. For me, the biggest tragedy in this novel was not the gradual...more
Nick Schroeder
With an opening sentence of, "Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature." any serious reader would suspect that what follows will be good. And this was. Ruth, as Dr. Weiss is know for most of the novel, is brought up in an unusual household with her actress mother, Helen, and her antiquarian bookseller father, George, but mostly in her early years is raised by her grandmother Mrs. Weiss. It is a strange household where Ruth "was expected to grow up as fast as she coul...more
Quickly finished Anita Brookner's thin, exquisite little novel, The Debut. Quite fitting that our yearning, restrained, competent Anglo-heroine, Ruth, is an academic of French literature (Balzac of course). Some things happen but nothing considerable happens in this short and precise exercise of quiet (English) meanings and manners – and yet amid nothing big the pretty particles dance and jerk around us, pleasing distractions to the left and right, and quietly we're at ease and enjoying the expe...more
Ronald Wise
One of several novels written by this British art-historian author since the early 1980s. On the first page we are introduced to Dr. Ruth Weiss, a scholar of literature, but quickly travel back in time to her childhood to see what may have contributed to her adult persona. Raised by inept parents, she learned at an early age to find escape in literature and modeled herself after the heroines she found there. This was an interesting character study, though not much in the way of suspense or drama...more
Brookner is clearly a very talented writer; the blurb from The New York Times describes the writing as "precise," which is apt. But this doesn't mean that her novels are enjoyable. I have no idea what Fay Weldon was smoking when she called this novel "very, very funny." It's not funny at all. Ruth Weiss, our redheaded heroine, is vaguely intriguing but ultimately spineless, and her parents are deeply flawed, monstrous egotists. There is not one likable character here. And the last part of the la...more
Lauren Albert
I knew right away that I'd read this before--I've read so many Brookner novels, it's easy to get them mixed up. But how could I not like a book that starts, "Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature."

It can be a painful read as you watch flawed people stumble their way through life. But there are moments of humor, mostly with Ruth's parent's housekeeper.
Thom Dunn
Brookner's first novel, published in 1981 when she was 53 as "A Start in Life". Why change the U.S. title to "Debut", I wonder......but there is a well-known short story by I-Forget-Who called "A Start in Life".

This book is so clearly drawn from the life of her own family. In 1984, just three years from this, she will win the Booker Prize with Hotel du Lac.
I didn't really "get" this book. It's about a strange British family, and maybe I didn't get all of the English wit, but I didn't find it that interesting or insightful. I must stop picking up every book that has a "This is the best novel I've read in years!" testimonial on the cover :)
Fantastic. Read this one first if you want to fully appreciate the kaleidoscoping of Brookner's characters in subsequent novels, the way similar human types crop up in different forms, and even certain lines echo. You don't even have to have read Balzac to enjoy it.
I loved how this book began and somehow the middle was not what I was hoping for yet in the end I can say I still liked this book a lot. Brookner is wonderful at characterization.

Can't wait to read more by this author who is fast becoming a favorite.
A quiet little book. The story wasn't a revelation or anything, but I found myself very engaged in it. I was pulling for Ruth, the heroine, but I was really more interested in her "tyrannical and eccentric parents" and their enabling housekeeper.
"Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature."

First lines don't come much better than that. The rest is Brookner, each sentence crafted, words about words, people made out of words. A delight.
Understated, as I've come to expect from this author. I love how her stories seem simple but are anything but!
British lady has awful parents and starts going to school to get away from them.
Certain sentences really resonant with me, but overall did not enjoy this book.
Brookner's first novel. Kind of a downer, but beautifully written.
Jun 26, 2011 Susan marked it as to-read
Colchester Library Book Sale June 26, 2011
dead letter office
a book about someone who reads too much.
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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, "Fr...more
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“We shall none of us ever make love again, she thought, and did not much care. Life had not been too harsh; the sea would still be there at the end. She was nearly ready.” 0 likes
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