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Brief Lives

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  279 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
With this novel, Booker Prize-winning author Anita Brookner confirms her reputation as an unparalleled observer of social nuance and deeply felt longings. Brief Lives chronicles an unlikely friendship: that between the flamboyant, monstrously egocentric Julia and the modest, self-effacing Fay, who is at once fascinated and appalled by Julia's excesses. Thrust together by t ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 7th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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(showing 1-30)
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John
I wasn't going to review this one, but having finished listening a few minutes ago, I've changed my mind.

A reviewer has stated that if the protagonist, Fay, were to attend a costume party, she'd attend as a Question Mark by default. I agree; her life so identified with being a wife (and widow), that we never really learn exactly who she really is. She even seems to try the role of adulteress, although the fellow is dead by the time the story gets going, and his widow (as it later turns out I bel
...more
Jessie
Rebecca West once famously said, "I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." The narrator could do with a bracing slug of feminism. Trod-on, used, manipulated, the narrator never grows into a full person, although maybe we are all malleable in different ways. The book is ponderous and detailed in relaying the inner workings of a woman of a certain age, and is at least revealing about a world I don't quite understand.
Ali
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really do love Anita Brookner’s writing, although, I find when it comes to writing a review I am somewhat at a loss to explain why. Her novels are certainly not plot driven, and people who only like plot driven narratives might well be driven mad by the quiet contemplation and introspection. I like the quite genteel lives of Brookner’s world, and find – maybe alarmingly that I understand them. I often hear and see the word depressing applied to reviews of Brookner’s novels – well I can see why ...more
Sara
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Definitely one of the most boring books I have ever read.

Sometimes, I'm okay with very little action and a lot of introspection. The woman - Fay - was just far too introspective and depressing for me. And she went on and on and on about her unhappy life and how she just basically gave up and resigned herself to a life of loneliness. Not to mention she had some masochistic wish to be friends with a woman named Julia who was clearly a Bitch with a capital B.

Most of us would have dumped Julia long
...more
Chris Walker
The book clubs will have fun with this one, discussing the arresting limitations of the ageing characters, especially the narrator. Well written, full of unrealised hopes and dreams and the approaching spectre of old age - good depressing fare! The self aware reader will no doubt have lots of good advice for the narrator by the end of it of what she should be doing instead of sitting in her flat feeling sorry for herself when she is obviously still in good health and retains a fantastic brain wi ...more
Jane
Jan 27, 2009 rated it liked it
This is my first Anita Brookner book and while it is very well written it is also a very depressing story. The main character, Fay, compromises her life so much through marriage, friendship, an illicit affair and even her living accomodation that by the end of the book I wanted to slap her and tell her just to paint the bloody walls another colour and replace that horrible carpet and stop thinking of yourself as being old at 45 and get rid of that bitchy 'friend'.
Rita
A Brookner book [1990] is certainly not cheerful! The two main characters are upper-middle-class women who each spend their last years alone [husbands having died]. The one is a convincingly described self-centered manipulator. The other allows herself to be manipulated -- by everyone, pretty much. Although she is deep into introspection throughout the book, she doesn't seem to me to ever get beyond her childhood training of dutifully pleasing and caring for other people.

I find it all quite depr
...more
Fredsky
As we single women toddle towards our deathbeds, all alone, how should we best be feeling? ('At least HE isn't here to see me in this mess!' or 'Help me Help me Help me!' or 'Ahem! I have some last words here! Let go of that drip and copy this down!') or what? The narrator is telling her story, the story of her life, from the perspective of a well-behaved English woman in her sixties. She considers herself elderly. She is certain that she will die without any loved ones present to help her on he ...more
Lambeam
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone over fifty would be wise to have a stiff drink before starting this book - preferably a gin and tonic because that is what everyone in the book is drinking. The author has a brilliant talent for describing in unflinching detail what it is to grow old in the company of widows and unmarried women. A very painful read.
Robin
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-ebooks, fiction, 2017
Loved it.
Richard Smith
Mar 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wikipedia says that Anita Brookner’s “novels explore themes of emotional loss and difficulties associated with fitting into society, and typically depict intellectual, middle-class women, who suffer isolation and disappointments in love.” That’s certainly true of this novel—and, I fear, true of her own life. Having published her first novel aged 53 she published a novel a year until 2009, surely too many novels.

I read Hotel du Lac years ago and remember only the stillness. I came to read Brief L
...more
Wendy
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this novel is like reading the diary of a woman's marriage and widowhood and her relationship with a vain, narcissistic, former theater actress. This is very much a character study which I enjoy. Fay shares with us the expectations, disappointments, fears, accommodations, and consolations of a rather lonely life. I liked Fay. She was not a particularly brave or assertive woman, but she did find the strength to make for herself the kind of life in which she could be happy. I was drawn in ...more
Anne M
Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brookner is my kind of author. It's all about the writing - not just plot. Page by page is a pleasure. Subtle characterization is the hallmark of her writing. This book's lead character is vividly developed. A very satisfying read.
Charles M.
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tale of two women, Fay and Julia, in flashback and how their friendship grows and then draws a part. Includes some rather surprising developments in their lives, which threaten to destroy their friendship...from the "Jane Eyre" of our generation!
Bill Viall
Nov 12, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I remember this as the worst book I ever read. It drove me up the wall with its dreariness. I probably wasn't reading it properly.
Lawrence
Jun 16, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh quit yer whining!
Alex Clare
You don't so much read Brookner as float through her. She can make the time between a doorbell ringing and the the door opening last a chapter and, generally, she carries you along with it. I was beginning to lose patience a little with the main character though, hence only 3 stars.
Brenda Hicks
A chore and a bore to read. I should have stopped with Hotel du Lac. Took all my strength just to make it through this one. This woman needs a life and seems incapable of figuring out how to get one. Bleh.
Jen
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather a depressing protagonist and at times I lost patience with why she kept making excuses and surrounding herself with others who brought no joy into her life. Julia was a bully who took putting people down to an art form! I questioned if this was the lot of women in that generation. Maybe for many it was, a mundaneness of daily life and over reliance on a relationship no matter how destructive or unpleasurable it was. Life was an endurance to the end. Age came quickly. Loneliness is an awfu ...more
Bobbie Darbyshire
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An ageing woman, hearing of the death of an acquaintance, looks back at her own unsatisfactory life and forward from a lonely present to a probably lonely future. Painfully accurate in its minute portrayal of Fay’s fluctuating moods and thoughts, with many wonderful character studies, this is an engrossing account of an unassertive female life in the pre-internet world. I often wanted to shake Fay, but I never lost interest in her. I wonder how I would have managed growing old on my own then. A ...more
Wendy
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this novel is like reading the diary of a woman's marriage and widowhood and her relationship with a vain, narcissistic, former theater actress. This is very much a character study which I enjoy. Fay shares with us the expectations, disappointments, fears, accommodations, and consolations of a rather lonely life. I liked Fay. She was not a particularly brave or assertive woman, but she did find the strength to make for herself the kind of life in which she could be happy. I was drawn in ...more
Natalia
Dec 14, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, abandoned
Depressing and boring book. None of the characters appealed to me. Additionally, I found this book very difficult to read - constantly had to look up words. It felt like this author purposefully used words not commonly spoken which was completely unnecessary. This was a story of a woman who married a wrong man and lead a very lonely life with him. Then he died, her parents died, her lover died and she never found any happiness or joy. Very sad and pointless. I had to abandon this book after stru ...more
Susannah Bell
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Personal note - a little bit repetitive in places, particularly at the beginning. I loved getting to know the female characters so intimately, but felt a bit frustrated by the lack of depth in the male characters, although having read most of Brookner's novels, I feel that I understand the point of this. Not much offered in terms of plot, but I loved the book even more for this - it's all about the women.
Hannah Katsman
Nov 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator of Brief Lives tells her life story, focusing on her relationship with her husband Owen until his death, and Owen's business associate Charlie, and Charlie's self-centered wife Julia. Brookner looks at each character and relationship from a variety of perspectives, over time. Like all of Anita Brookner's plots, the story of Brief LIves inches along slowly. But the careful writing and well-developed characters make it worthwhile.
Caroline
Took me a while to get into this book but once I did I enjoyed it. I found myself loving the fact that having to obey her parents and then husband she could, once they had all gone enjoy some time on her own doing her own thing. Of course I found the friend Julia irritating but then most narcissistic people are irritating! Dealt well with the ideas of the time, also felt biographical?
Julie
Dec 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story about aging, with several women characters who deal with
the issue in varying ways. The writing is exquisite. The women
were born in the 1920s and 30s, so many of the issues do not at
first seem relevant to today, but is many ways they are.
Thomasin
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Why did I even finish this book?! So depressing, with no actual action or excitement. Just ongoing narration on a dull marriage, unfulfilling home life, mean and terrible "friends," and loneliness. I know the author is an award winner, but this particular novel wasn't for me.
Susanna
Jun 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those hard-to-put down books. It's about women, their lives and their friendships, and how we can become part of each other's lives and stay so indefinitely, regardless of the degrees of love, liking or even loathing that exist between us.
Marianne
A great story on the inner lives of 2 upper class women.....however very depressing!
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Goodreads Librari...: Add cover please: 12 41 Feb 10, 2015 02:05AM  
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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 think that those few words were my greatest mistake.” 1 likes
“I reminded myself of someone, but someone I had not seen for a long time.” 1 likes
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