Dolly

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Overview

In her superbly accomplished new novel, Anita Brookner proves that she is our mast profound observer of women's lives, posing questions about feminine identity and desire with a stylishness that conveys an almost sensual pleasure.

From the moment Jane Manning first meets her aunt Dolly, she is both fascinated and appalled. Where Jane is tactful and shy, Dolly is flamboyant and unrepentantly selfish, a connoisseur of fine things, an exploiter of wealthy people. But as the ...

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Dolly

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Overview

In her superbly accomplished new novel, Anita Brookner proves that she is our mast profound observer of women's lives, posing questions about feminine identity and desire with a stylishness that conveys an almost sensual pleasure.

From the moment Jane Manning first meets her aunt Dolly, she is both fascinated and appalled. Where Jane is tactful and shy, Dolly is flamboyant and unrepentantly selfish, a connoisseur of fine things, an exploiter of wealthy people. But as the exigencies of family bring Jane and Dolly together, Brookner shows us that we may end up loving people we cannot bring ourselves to like — and that this paradox makes love all the more precious and miraculous.

Paul and Henrietta are ill-prepared to meet Dolly, wife of Henrietta's beloved brother. Dolly becomes an object of both fascination and dread, especially to her niece Jane, who finds herself yoked to her aunt in an uneasy social and financial harness when Dolly becomes a widow.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Darkly beautiful, ardent Dolly, her stolid spouse in tow, favors her London in-laws and shy young niece Jane with heady, random visits from Brussels. Dolly's eagerness, her hunger for love (though she has none to give) mesmerize Jane, who is the percipient narrator of Brookner's latest delicately brooding novel. Soon the widowed Dolly, ``always needy, always greedy,'' shows up in her silks, her faux pearls, her mink sprayed with Joy perfume. Contemptuous of Jane and her sedately affluent parents, Dolly sponges brazenly from them to indulge a craving for luxuries. Jane and Dolly dislike each other, and their antipathy gives a fine, shimmering edge to Jane's insight. Dolly's exultant moment comes at age 68, when she can flaunt her most flattering accessory--vulgarian Harry, owner of a fleet of taxis, who enables her to fulfill ``archaic female longings.'' Brookner ( Fraud ) renders with impeccable finesse the complexities of female desire as she meditates on the emotional legacies left by mothers to daughters. Parallel chapters depict the girlhoods of Dolly and Jane's mother, both resonant with continental Jewish culture, both engendering needs. Jane's brush with American feminists sparks a query: ``If they . . . emancipate themselves from their ancestral longings, will they be disappointed?'' The ambiguous, subtly shifting relationship between Dolly and Jane enters an astonishing dimension as Brookner brilliantly unfolds their story. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Jane, a successful young author, prefers a quiet life, unlike her Aunt Dolly, a flamboyant soul always on display and seeking admiration. Utterly dissimilar and not overly fond of each other, the two women are bound together by unexpected events and consequences dating from Jane's early childhood. As Jane narrates the story of their incongruous mutual dependencies, she speculates on the nature of human connections and the female experience in ways that resonate beyond the deceptively simple plot line. Readers fond of Brief Lives LJ 3/15/91 will demand this subtle new work by Booker Prize winner Brookner. Recommended for most fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.
Donna Seaman
Brookner creates personalities like a sculptor carves marble. She begins with the essential form, in this case, Dolly--a handsome Frenchwoman with high color, an assertive bosom, and a penchant for pearls and fitted silk dresses--and then, deftly, reveals ever finer details of texture, structure, and vitality. This process ultimately tells us as much about the artist as about her subject. Jane, Brookner's narrator, a young, solitary, and circumspect woman who eventually becomes a children's author, tells us a great deal more about Brookner herself than most of her exquisitely limned characters. At any rate, Jane is both repelled and intrigued by Dolly from their very first meeting. Jane's quiet and ethereal mother, Etty, was habitually neglected and occasionally mistreated by her mother, but her brother, Hugo, could do no wrong. Dolly met Hugo and his formidable mother just after the war when she and her hardworking but nearly blind dressmaker mother desperately needed financial security. A survivor, Dolly managed to seduce both banker Hugo and his doting keeper. Later, after Hugo dies, his pitiless mother assumes responsibility for the rather costly Dolly, and then, when she dies, Etty and her gentle husband start writing the checks. Dolly accepts their generosity as her due, but finds their quiet, bookish life and pale, unalluring daughter inexplicable if not laughable. Dolly's motto is: "Always let them think of you as singing and dancing," a sentiment derived as much from a predator's instinct as from a genuine love of pleasure. As events conspire to throw Dolly and Jane together, Brookner continually redefines and particularizes the complex psyches of these disparate but inextricably linked characters, articulating an entire spectrum of emotions from unspecified longing to forbearance. Psychological drama at its finest.
Jonathan Yardley
Immensely rewarding….Not merely is it the best of Brookner's novels; it is close to perfection.
Washington Post Book World
From the Publisher
"Compelling...takes us deep into the territory of the heart, with all its rocky roads and shimmering possibilities,"

-- Los Angeles Times

"About as wonderful as anything Brookner has ever written."

-- Carol Kino, The New York Times Book Review

"Poignant, beautifully told.... Only a writer of great passion, conviction and artistry could [create such] a spellbinding portrait of the dreams and frustrations of the human heart."

-- Christian Science Monitor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816174454
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 7/31/1994
  • Pages: 296

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2005

    Brookner¿s Dolly ¿ Unique & Impressive!

    I found this novel to be quite simply a work of art¿I was struck by the way author Anita Brookner writes with such pure simplicity while having the keen insight to be able to describe a situation or character with such exact precision that the reader can totally understand, sympathize, and identify with the narrator. Brookner¿s work examines the reality of what lies beneath the surface of her characters in the course of their very realistic-seeming lives. Dolly, Jane, and Etty really come alive as Brookner fills their story with private insightful observations. This book was thoughtful and wise¿ a real find. Any reader who appreciates eloquent, introspective writing will relish Anita Brookner¿s books. I enjoyed Bay Of Angels also, but Dolly was even better in terms of being more memorable. The character of Dolly leaves the reader with an indelible impression: you loathe her, you pity her, and you definitely recognize people you know in her character. The relationship that Jane reaches with Dolly by the end of the book is unexpected and interesting. This would be a good book for a women¿s book club- you long to discuss it and compare reactions with someone else who has read it.

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