Sunday 12 March 2017

I suppose this is home now

I've never been at home here... People say I'm so serious and depressing, but it seems to me that the English are never serious - they are flippant, complacent, ineffable, but never serious - and this is maddening.
Haffenden interview, 1985

'I suppose this is home now but I find it very disconcerting ... it's a different sort of conversation one has here. Full of jokes.'
Leaving Home, Ch. 9

Anita Brookner's immigrant background gave her reasons for feeling as she did. The same can be said of many of her characters. It can't as easily be said of Emma Roberts in Leaving Home. Was there ever a more determinedly English name? Precisely why Emma Roberts doesn't feel at home in England, doesn't appreciate English humour, or, as she says later, so disdains the gardens favoured by the English, isn't precisely clear, and Brookner isn't in any hurry to make it clear. It's as though she takes pleasure in making us accept things we wouldn't otherwise give the time of day to. It's how she inducts us into her peculiar world. By the end of Leaving Home one finds oneself swallowing all manner of horrifying stuff, and only nodding helplessly in acknowledgement and gratitude.

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