Friday, July 1, 2011
Review: Incidents in the Rue Laugier
How could I ever have doubted Thomas' affection for Anita Brookner? Her writing is beautiful, her characters keenly observed and she masterfully tells a story in a way that is both succinct and sweeping.
Appearance is everything to Maud's mother, Nadine, which means the small pension left by her deceased husband must be eked out very carefully. Meat is bought every day but only small cutlets, trips to the dressmaker are spaced out and services to the concierge of the building are kept up twice a week to uphold her status in the building. If she is careful, the money will last until Maud marries. While marriage to a rich man would suit Nadine's pride, the truth is that any marriage will relieve her of her commitments as a mother.
Unspoken shame accompanies Nadine and Maud when the only annual trip they can afford is to accept a begrudgingly made invitation by Maud's aunt. During this year's visit the house is buzzing with her cousin Xavier's friends while Maud stands apart with her careful grooming and starched blouses. The other young guests with their pedigree backgrounds laugh, drink and sneak away in couples to the summer house. One of them, David Tyler, is perfect in every way with his ability to make any outfit look better for his wearing it, his handsome face and charming ways that heighten the colour of even mature women. His reputation for bedding young ladies and leaving them heartbroken in the span of an afternoon does nothing to lessen his appeal. His friend, Edward Harrison is well on his way to building a secure future and has a conscience. Guess which one Maud falls for?
Left in a troubled state, Maud is rescued by the offer of marriage from Edward. He is from an English family and their differences result in a riveting exploration of cultures clashing and the expectations of marriage. Brookner writes stunningly from both sides of the marital bed and I sympathized equally with both partners. With Maud for having no option other than to marry someone she didn't love and knowing her mother was fine with that. And with Edward, conflicted over desperately wanting his wife to belong to him heart and soul while feeling he is sacrificing his freedom to take on another man's responsibility. Though I must say that I quite enjoyed the way Brookner dealt with Tyler.
Incidents in the Rue Laugier completely changed my mind about Brookner making it a good choice as a first book if you're considering this author. Thanks to Thomas at My Porch for being passionate about this author and surreptitiously reminding to give her another try.