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3.63  ·  Rating details ·  248 Ratings  ·  34 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 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Very disappointed in this work by Anita Brookner. My first four way into her writings was Hotel du Lac, when are the Man Booker Prize. Where is that one explored eloquently the dynamics of a woman dedicated to propriety and the rules of society; how forming our relationship after a divorce in her time was devastatingly difficult, "Dolly" really did nothing except describe aImost hateable, selfish, shockingly heartless Aunt of the narrator, eighteen years old Jane Manning.

Jane could easily sense
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the disappointment of "Fraud" I was hoping that this book wouldn't also be a dud, but no. It's much better.

Brookner is up to her old tricks again in this one. Her portrayal of character is impressive, and once we finish reading the book we feel as though we know these characters very well. The story is told by the title character's niece, who is a young woman and has memories of her aunt, Dolly, that are not warm. Dolly herself is a mix of personalities, but mainly is a manipulative self-c
Laila (BigReadingLife)
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
Alicia Tompkins
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone who is really interested in novels as portraits
Recommended to Alicia by: not sure how it got on my book shelf!
really if there were a two and a half, I would give this book that. the blurb on Goodreads which is similar to the one on the back of the book drew me to finally read this book which had been sitting on my book shelf oh so many years. It was an interesting portrait but even though it was a relatively short book, it seemed long at time. I got tired of what seemed like of the near constant foreshadowing...just get on with the story. It would be an interesting book to discuss with someone but just ...more
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this story told by the young narrator Jane. She takes you through her life and I was over anxious to hear about the flamboyant and self centered Aunt Dolly and how should would fit into the story.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Anita Brookner is the 21st Century heir to Barbara Pym, the 20th Century heir to Jane Austen. Yum.
Large things happen in small ways, sometimes even glacially. Still, the language, wry observations and human conflicts envelope you.
Leslie Graff
Jun 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Dolly – Anita Brookner
This is the story of one of Brookner’s typical shy, bookish narrators coming into her own under the shadow of a dominating aunt, Dolly. Dolly is a woman who has struggled all her life from her days growing up in her mother’s dress making business/apartment filled with the patronage of prostitutes to her failed attempts to win over an American serviceman during the war. She eventually lands in England and makes her catch, an Englishman with a steady career in banking and an
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heather Denkmire
Apr 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Frances Sawaya
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quick-reads, keeper
I really loved this book, which is narrated from childhood to early adulthood by a shy, observant girl watching and listening to her parents, grandparents, housekeepers, and aunt & uncle -- a family mix of people that are variously strong-willed, meek, outrageous, and careful. She is very observant, and the minute gestures and glances that she observes give away the true nature of the other friends and family members. She's also quite good at discerning people's motives and desires, includin ...more
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Returned to Brookner after many years, and was reminded how like I find her to Henry James in some ways. Her quiet, exquisite examination of smallest details, the patient accumulation of observations, and the realized conclusion is as momentous as a boulder dropped in a swimming pool. The disturbance can rock you. In Dolly, what does Jane's discovery say about Dolly, and what does it say about Jane?
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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.
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Though the characters in this book did not seem to develop, I, as the reader, definitely developed in my understanding of who they were up to the very last page. Although I nearly stopped halfway through when the plot seem to pause, the last half was intriguing as the character of Dolly became more and more revealed. The character of her niece was one that I needed to fill in a bit more myself. I never fully grasped why she didn't just totally abandon her aunt.
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.
Charles M.
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Jane Manning's live is interrupted by her aunt Dolly, whose husband has just passed away. Eventually Dolly dominates Jane's life after the death of her closest relatives; leaving Dolly as her next to kin! yet again a very interesting character protrayal of a long line of individuals introduced by Brookner in her novels...and this could be one of the more interesting.
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Rachel Jones
Jul 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
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.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: no-anitas
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.
Sep 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Not my favorite Brookner novel, but I still quite enjoyed the deep internal thoughts of Jane, and though I wouldn't say I liked Dolly, I felt I could understand her and what made her the way she was. These novels are not action packed, but I still like them a lot.
A spare and very atmospheric novel about a "family" with only the most minimal strands of connection. Dolly is the aunt--meddling, self centered but somehow heroic. A strong image of dusty claustrophobia and sadness, but beautifully written.
An interesting journey through family relationships to a kind of gentle realization.
Christine O'sullivan
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of my all-time favorites.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
A bit slow at first..but Don't give up. Beautifully written compelling story.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Anita Brookner is one of my favorite authors, this was typical Brookner (Jane Austen like) but I didn't find it as engaging as her others.
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finished this the day after Christmas when I was 30 years old. Must have been some holiday.
Susannah Bell
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Another quiet heroine who has the ability to hide away. I envy this ability of Anita Brookner's characters.
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An introverted but interesting story of women with and without independent means as they grope for meaningful lives and love, given the luck of their childhoods.
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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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“I reflected how easy it is for a man to reduce women of a certain age to imbecility. All he has to do is give an impersonation of desire, or better still, of secret knowledge, for a woman to feel herself a source of power.” 0 likes
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