It doesn't yet feel like mature Brookner, but in Providence you do get the sense of an author finding her feet. The middle stretches are of interest: Brookner seems to proceed through indirection, sending Kitty Maule to a clairvoyant; to a colleague's cottage in Gloucestershire; on an outing with her grandparents; and to Paris. But the focus on the heroine and on the main plot is tighter than in A Start in Life, and this is an advance. The tone, accordingly, is more consistent. There is still humour - the schoolgirls and their teacher in Paris, for example - but it's better integrated and less distracting. The pace is, however, slack. It works in Trollope, this lessening of the tempo in the middle, but readers often need a breather in the course of a long Victorian tome. In a novel as short and slight as Providence the reader may feel uncertain as to where the story is going, may even suspect the writer of not really having a story to tell.
But the Paris scenes ('Rien ne vaut la France') are fresh and full of incident and authenticity. I well remember travelling there as a youngster myself: the ferry crossing, that cafeteria in the rue de Rivoli. Later Maurice arrives, secure and complacent in his faith. He proves a disruptive, alienating presence. He somehow, for all his Englishness, manages to appropriate France, a country Kitty might have thought of as her own.