I rescued this from the second-hand book stall at my daughters’ school fete. I have read a few Brookner novels and always found them quite melancholic – this was no exception. Beautiful, but definitely melancholic.
Here’s the blurb …
Naïve and undemanding, Harriet Lytton expects very little of life and that is what she receives. Married to a respectable man old enough to be her father, Harriet’s only taste of passion comes when she meets Jack Peckham, the unruly, attractive husband of her friend Tessa.
Tessa and Harriet have for many years been bound together by their childhood friendship and the imposed alliance of their two daughters, Imogen and Lizzie. But events conspire to shatter the gentle rhythm of Harriet’s life. Tragically restrained by her own cautious choices, she faces the cruellest losses of all: those of hope and desire.
This feels like a slow moving novel, but actually covers quite a bit of time most of it covered in retrospect. Harriet marries a man old enough to be her father (in fact he is one of her father’s friends) because it seems to be expected of her and he can’t provide her a comfortable life. She seems content with her lot (although she wasn’t something much different for her ‘perfect daughter’) until she meets Jack Peckham (the rakish husband of her condescending friend Tessa). They share one chaste kiss, but Harriet is enthralled by him. However, she doesn’t do anything about it. The closest she gets it befriending his daughter in the hope she will cross paths with Jack. People die around her and still she can’t bring herself to do anything.
Despite this being a beautifully written novel and the characterisation of Harriet (her in-action is incredibly frustrating) and Lizzie (so self-contained) are brilliant, I will need a bit of a pause before tackling another Brookner.
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