Wednesday 9 August 2017

Two Scottish Aunts and an American Academic

'Just till tomorrow, dear. Then we're off home to our garden. We've had a lovely show this past year. Even the apples were good. Could you take a few home with you, Jane? I know Mary has sufficient. If you come by tomorrow, dear, we can let you have a couple of pounds with pleasure.'
A Family Romance, ch. 8

Elsewhere the Scottish aunts speak of 'wee Marigold'. The word 'sufficient' recalls an earlier scene in which one or the other asks 'Have you had a sufficiency, Peter?' At one point Brookner examines the ladies' use of the verb 'to take', as in 'Will you take a scone, Jane?': 'their favourite verb, although no two people could have been more giving' (ch. 5).

'Janet's copper beech. I confess to a little envy: I haven't one of my own. But I can always look at hers. We have tea together at her house, when it's at its best, in October. Have you noticed that when the leaves fall they turn a dark ox-blood red. I dare say you have a fine garden at home.'
Ch. 9

I confess to; I dare say; a fine garden: we might be in Henry James. But I think Brookner missed a trick with 'in October': surely an opportunity for 'in the fall'? Note too the sentence 'I haven't one of my own', where a British speaker might say 'I haven't got' or 'I don't have'.


I wouldn't say Brookner has a tin ear for this sort of thing, but I do find these examples too studied and self-conscious. If she'd ever had a Welsh character, I guess he or she would once or twice have said 'look you'.

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