The following review of Lewis Percy was posted at Heavenali.
I have become rather a fan of Anita Brookner although of the 24 novels she has written this is only the eleventh I have read. I love the mood she creates with her writing, the lonely suburbia, damp evening London streets, the senses of quiet isolation and life slipping by unremarked. Her books are fairly small, although I find her a “slow read” – books I need to take time over. I also find her extremely hard to review. This is therefore likely to be a very short review.
Most of the Brookner novels that I have read have been from a female perspective, this is only the second I have read from a male perspective. Lewis Percy is a lonely bookish academic. As the novel starts he is a student in Paris in 1959 – where after a day in the library he looks forward to going back to his rented room in a house full of women. Here he enjoys simple companionship, listening to the conversations of the other inhabitants of the house.
Lewis returns home to London, to the house he shares quietly with his mother. He knows it is an unremarkable life – but he is even then unfit for any other. When his mother dies suddenly Lewis is aware of his utter aloneness. Lewis is desperately ill-equipped for life on his own and needs someone else to take care of the day to day practicalities of running a home. First he engages a daily help – who rather begins to take over his home, but soon he starts to think more in terms of marriage. He meets agoraphobic Tissy at the library where he used to collect his mother’s books. There is no romance – they are merely beneficial to each other. The unsatisfactory nature of this marriage – and the way in which it inevitably ends is beautifully portrayed by Anita Brookner.
“He did not for a moment believe that she had left him. The suspicion began later, as the weeks passed. He thought at first for a person of Tissy’s susceptibilities pregnancy, and a late pregnancy at that was bound to be upsetting.At times out of step with the world he is living in Lewis must find a way to move forward and break away from his non marriage.
“He loved her in a hurt damaged way. He loved her as a child might love a broken doll, half frightened at having caused the breakage.”