Strangers by Anita Brookner

This is Brookner’s 24th novel and if you have never read anything by her I would urge you to do so.  Her ability to write pages without dialogue with few characters involved is extraordinary.  However, If you are looking for action and excitement look elsewhere.

Paul Sturgis leads a lonely life, he is in his 70s and has plenty of money but lives his life with strangers. He never married and longs for the company of a child to accept him just as he is. During the course of the novel, he has contact with three women: one is a distant relation he visits every six weeks or so on a Sunday afternoon until she suddenly dies; one arrives in his life unexpectedly and another is an old friend who had rejected him long ago.  None of these woman can do anything to alleviate his loneliness.

The book begins:  Sturgis had always known that it was his destiny to die among strangers.  The childhood he remembered so dolefully had been darkened by fears which maturity had done nothing to alleviate.  Now, in old age, his task was to arrange matters in as seemly a manner as possible in order to spare the feelings of those strangers whose pleasant faces he encountered every morning – in the supermarket, on the bus – and whom, even now, he was anxious not to offend.

It sounds dreary and many reviewers of her books have urged Brookner’s characters to take some Prozac or something to get them out of their melancholy.  I believe she is a writer better appreciated in maturity, not hers, mine, although I have been reading her for a long time now.

At 82 years of age she is still writing this beautiful prose and will I believe come to be known as one of the great writers of the English novel.


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