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From the Trade Paperback edition.
“An unusually beautiful and heartbreaking book.” –Detroit Free Press
“Brookner’s wit glows like a kind of background radiation that charges everything here. . . . She has never been more clearsighted, more compellingly brilliant.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“A wise story about competing impulses and the trade-offs we make to accommodate them.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Posted October 27, 2003
The first three chapters of The Bay of Angels point to one reason why a New York Times book reviewer suggests that Henry James would approve of Anita Brookner. The voice of the central character, Zoë, evokes an Austenian shadow. Surface comparisons are deceiving. Chapter 4 replaces the Austenian voice with existentialist tones in allusions to Camus¿ The Stranger. In the final chapter, the climate and voice assume the mask of the final chapter of Brontë¿s Jane Eyre with a sublime twist. The changes in voice are clues to the subtext breezing through the pages of Zoë¿s life. Under the guise of good manners and restraint, Zoë quietly demonstrates the search for value by a generation of women coming of age in the ambiguous space between the Sixties¿ and the Techno generations. In existential voice, the narrative swirls about a central hub: Zoë¿s journey toward understanding death and achieving self-validation. The reader has access to only an approximation of time: Zoë¿s parents romanced in the 50¿s, and Zoë comes of age in the 80¿s. She realizes her adult self into being through experiential opposition of the Same as the still living (herself and the present), against the Other as the dead (her mother and the past). Along the way from child to adult, she blends the magical thinking inherited from her mother¿s generation of women with the revolutionary thinking of the 60¿s women¿s movement. Zoë doesn¿t worship gods or men, although she mimes both in voice and in story (especially in allusions to Dickens). Her patriarchal legacy, bestowed by the ¿gods of antiquity,¿ is discarded along with shadowy memories of her dead father. Stepfather Simon, apropos of the treatment of women by men of his generation, provides without inspiring, keeping his hands firmly on the reigns while promising freedom. Adam, Zoë¿s first important lover, is sketched as an exemplar of the men from her own generation: unable to commit, focused on material gain, and blessed with success by the patriarchal ancestors. Antoine at first refuses to acknowledge her individuality: Zoë¿s generation has been alternately attached to the end-years of the Baby Boom or added to the first years of the Baby Bust by culturists, while not really fitting in either generation; but, he eventually accepts Zoë on her terms. The ¿common currency¿ of the generations is the human sacrifice made in the name of progress. Zoë realizes the personal price extracted to have a ¿flat of one¿s own¿ may be too high. She gradually overcomes the guilt of magically thinking her mother to death; accepts, but does not surrender to the fiction of a homecoming for her generation of women; and, comes to terms with the power of negation in a patriarchal society perpetuating the fiction of a ¿right true end¿ for women. Independence for Zoë¿s generation of women requires an ¿act of faith¿ in the power of the Sun God (Why God? Still ambiguous after 200 pages?) to warm the spirit of the individual woman whose worth continues to be negated by a frozen society. Brookner gobbles up The Stranger and spits him out morphed into her own voice to create an Orlando all her own.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 6, 2002
After a pair of slightly underpar novels, Anita Brookner easily reclaims her place as the best living writer in the English language. In 'BAY OF ANGELS' she weaves a tale of a young English woman who finds her mother involved with a seemingly interesting and worldly older man. Her mother marries and moves to NICE on the French Riviera. But just as the man's facade is lifting, the stepfather suddenly dies and the young woman is on a zig-zag between her life and job in London and caring for her institutionalized mother in Nice. Meanwhile, her personal life is on a virtual hold while responsibilities are met. As is her mainstay, BROOKNER offers incredible insight into the lives of those people who seem to be ordinary, and she is without compromise in refusing to glamourize or fast-track their lives with (false) easy answers. Discovering ANITA BROOKNER is a blessing and a curse. She either involves the reader totally in a sort of actionless page-turning frenzy, or she's dismissed by other readers who'd really perfer another John Grisham re-hash instead of reading a level-headed book.
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Posted December 26, 2009
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