Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Country and the City

Angela, Alan's ill-fated wife in Altered States, is Lewis Percy's Tissy reborn, though for Tissy's suburban origins we have a background even farther beyond the pale. Alan spends an 'excruciating weekend' in Angela's mother's provincial 'red-brick box of a house', the cramped amenities of which are described with maximum distaste. The garden, we're told, slopes down to a small stream.

Angela has dreams of the countryside, but her fantasies are more of the fabled lives of the squirearchy. She isn't keen on Alan's mother, fears Mrs Sherwood may be condescending to her. The issue of class, as ever in Brookner, is very subtly conveyed.

In chapter 9 Alan takes Angela on a holiday into the English interior - alien territory for any true Brooknerian. They spend time in the New Forest, then head for Bournemouth, mixing with Jewish matrons. This is firmer ground, recalling the Christmas hotel scene in A Family Romance. Indeed the vacation is surprisingly a success, and leads to the purchase of a second home, Postman's Cottage, in Shoreham-by-Sea. Brookner's laughter is quiet but not too difficult to hear.

Soon, though, we're off to Paris again, and the narrative can (perhaps) breathe a sigh of relief.

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