Will the boys marry? Well, of course they will, in so far as everybody marries.
Anita Brookner, Family and Friends, ch. 1
Perhaps a little more than loneliness - too awkward a subject? - marriage is a recurring theme in Brookner's interviews. Everyone should marry several times, Brookner tells Boyd Tonkin in 2002. Or consider the interview with Blake Morrison from 1994:
…a recurrent dilemma of her novels is: Should I marry? This has also been the dilemma of much great (not merely romantic) fiction of the past. But Brookner's characters often receive the wrong kind of proposal, or bolt from the impending ceremony, or marry in haste and repent at leisure. The choice between lonely self-possession and companionable self-immolation - this is her theme. How much has this to do with her own life?
'What can I say? I have had offers of marriage but I didn't accept them. I possibly never met anyone to whom I could really entrust my life. I suppose it stems from early childhood.'
In what way?
'Well, I was always wary of my parents' plans for me. And I never really wanted to be taken over, or to have to give up anything else. It would have meant giving up work.'
But did she never think: working as an art historian need not rule out marriage - I could have both?
'No, I never thought that. From the outset the work absorbed me and I felt passionately about it. Of course I fell in and out of love like anybody does, but I think I knew that I was always going to live on my own.'
Yet she was attracted by the idea of marriage? 'I thought when I was young I would give everything up to be happily married. But you grow out of that, I think. By 30 a sort of wariness had crept in - I began to recognise men and what they were doing it for. These are people with their own agenda, who think you might be fitted in if they lop off certain parts. You can see them coming a mile off.'
In this sense she's like her heroines, then, who tend to receive unsuitable proposals, unsuitable because they have nothing to do with love? 'Yes. Or even sex.'