When Rachel becomes involved in the lives of the Livingstones it is with an acute appreciation of their home - beautifully furnished and richly decorated. They have won an undisclosed amount of money on the football pools. But rather than enjoy their new-found wealth, seem sadly resigned to it. They do, however, appear to take pleasure in the association between Rachel and their daughter Heather, seeing Rachel as a good influence. However, no one can foresee their own destiny.
And everyone can be a victim of fate.
©1987 Selobrook Ltd (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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"A friend indeed"
A self-described "plain dealer proud of the honesty of her transactions," protagonist Rachel brings us into the world of Oscar and Dorrie and their extended family. The couple is newly wealthy from an undisclosed windfall from the football pools. Rachel is, to their minds, best friends with their daughter Heather. Unfortunately, it isn't clear that either Rachel or Heather understands the precise nature of their relationship. This "friendship" is the true focus of the book and explores Brookner's obsession with misunderstandings and misalliances, as well as the nature of feminine interactions.
Much of the beginning is told in straightforward exposition without much dialogue, which does become a bit wearing after a time. But things pick up when Heather becomes engaged. Rachel has her doubts about Michael, Heather's Peter Pan of a fiancé, and more doubts still about his over-protective father.
Brookner's well-known gifts are evident throughout: close, telling observations which reveal deep character; a deft, painterly touch with description; the creation of an uneasy expectation about what may or may not come to pass.
Still, having read "A Family Romance" the same week, I found this a little less satisfying. There seemed to be less at stake here, and less intimacy in the viewpoint. But time spent with Brookner is never wasted, and I still enjoyed this story very much.
The beautiful Ms. Lunghi's narration is well-suited to the story. As Rachel, she delivers a slightly disdainful view of the circumstances with swift, impeccable enunciation.
"More Brookner Magic"
Once you get hooked on the Brookner oeuvre, there's no turning back. After reading almost a dozen of her novels, I don't care as much about the specifics of any one book as I do about reentering the meticulous, incredibly erudite, slightly claustrophobic world she has constructed. Here you find extraordinarily refined intelligence and detailed insight worthy of Henry James. The characters are chilly observers, frequently disappointed in love and life in general. Although this novel appears to be about the Livingstone family and the feckless daughter, Heather, it's really about the unmasking of the angry, deluded narrator. The climactic chapter in Venice is memorable and unsettling. There's something misanthropic about Brookner, but you love her for it. Cherie Lunghi's reading is appropriately spritely and darkens nicely as the layers of denial are stripped from the narrator.
"Interesting self-deluded narrator..."
But overall, a depressing look at the "near miss" in casual relationships nowadays. It does make an important point: that to create a life with verve and meaning requires a genuine investment of the self -- something this character was entirely unable to risk.
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