Laura's Reviews > The Debut

The Debut by Anita Brookner
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's review
May 12, 2009

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bookshelves: family-life-and-relationships
Read in May, 2009

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 that other people will ultimately decide the direction of her life. The few small efforts she does make to choose her own path are set aside quickly when they conflict with what other people want from her. In the end, looking back on her life at the age of forty, she decides that the "ruin" her life has become is because she expected real life to be like 19th century literature, in which virtue and self-sacrifice are always rewarded and all a woman needs to do to find love is wait patiently.

Actually, most of the characters in the book, not just Ruth, are very passive people. The home Ruth grows up in after the death of her grandmother is an untidy place full of people who are waiting for someone else to come along, take charge and make them happy. If Ruth is the only one to bend her life to accommodate others, it is because she is the only one capable of it, not because those around her are made of stronger stuff.

Although the copy on the back of the book states that in the end Ruth
discovers that "once again she must make a new start in life", I didn't see any evidence of a new start. Instead I saw a woman who, while possessing some insight into how her life had become what it is, is in the end too tired or too passive to make any real change.
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Reading Progress

05/17/2009 page 73
03/18/2016 marked as: read

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