Twice in 'At the Hairdresser's' Elizabeth complains that she has nothing to read. She reads only the classics now, and is presently engaged with Thomas Mann. But he is found wanting. To have nothing to read may seem a minor grumble, but for Elizabeth the situation is grave. Her routines are important to her: 'any break ... held a superstitious indication of ultimate change' (Ch. 4). Having nothing to read means she has no way of filling her days. This leaves her perilously open to offers.
For reading, read writing. There are some writers for whom writing is a compulsion: it is their drink, their drugs. Trollope was one, starting the next book notoriously soon on the heels of the previous. He continued writing right up to the wire, though he was in considerable distress. With 'At the Hairdresser's' Anita Brookner comes to an end. What was her life like when she had nothing to write?