Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A latter-day Jane Austen, Brookner distills irony and tragedy from the essence of quiet lives. Here she reaches new heights of insight and empathy in the story of a woman whose life, while not brief in years, is emotionally stunted, circumscribed by her passive personality and the social climate of her times. The brevity of hope and ``the hopelessness of desire'' are the elegiac leitmotifs that run throughout this lucid, meticulously written story. Narrator Fay Langdon futilely seeks to recapture the ``Edenic simplicity'' of childhood, never achieving the romantic love promised in the popular songs of the '20s which she once sang on the radio. Now a ``woman of advanced years,''she looks back and reflects on her empty existence. As the compliant wife of a coldhearted workaholic lawyer who does not return her yearning for tenderness and intimacy; as the obedient friend of Julia, a monstrously snobbish, selfish woman, married to Fay's husband's business partner; and as the mistress of the latter after her husband dies, Fay has learned to serve others with humble self-effacement that masks her secret bitterness, desolation and longing. Brookner dips her pen in acid for her portrait of the poisonous Julia, and in rue for her evocation of the specter of solitary old age that Fay faces with dignity. (June)
British novelist Brookner has written several novels, including the Booker prize winner, Hotel du Lac ( LJ 2/15/85). Her new novel covers the nearly 40 years of intertwining lives of two dissimilar, incompatible women. Flamboyant, selfish Julia was once a glamorous actress. Fay arranges her life around men--first her father, then her husband, then her lover--and eventually her friend, none of them her ideal; finally, she is alone. Like Brookner's other novels, Brief Lives focuses on the loneliness of good, conventional women who fail to achieve their ideal relationship and who cannot live happily alone. Brookner's calm, delicate, elegant prose is a pleasure to read. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/91.--Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, Ore.
Brookner is a writer of great skill and precision. Passages of brilliant writing abound, hardwon insights that startle us with Brookner's clarity and succinct intelligence.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Compelling…Brookner's vision of human behavior is scrupulously honest, without ever being cruel…a gem of revelation.
From the Publisher
"Anita Brookner works a spell on the reader; being under it is both an education and a delight." Washington Post Book World"Brookner [is] a writer of great skill and precision. Passages of brilliant writing abound, hard-won insights that startle us with Brookner's clarity and succinct intelligence." Michael Dorris, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Compelling...Brookner's vision of human behavior is scrupulously honest, without ever being cruel... a gem of revelation."
Hilma Wolitzer, Chicago Tribune
"Accomplished...compassionate, meditative and intelligent. Empathy informs all of Anita Brookner's novels, [and] Brief Lives is yet another instance of her large and knowing heart."
The New York Times Book Review