Saturday 30 September 2017

Undue Influence: Claire Pitt's Holidays

'My mother was the least prurient of women' (Undue Influence, ch. 10): that mother chose not to enquire too deeply into how Claire spent her mysterious holidays. Claire isn't the only Brookner character who has her foreign breakouts, her adventures in out-of-the-way locations. George Bland in A Private View has a fondness for off-grid liaisons. None of this quite comprises sex tourism, but it's something close.

The rather wonderful cover of the latest edition
of A Private View illustrates, perhaps, the beginning
of one of Bland's illicit foreign adventures.

'It occurred to me that one could spend an entire holiday in Hyde Park,' says Claire later in Undue Influence (ch. 18). That she can have such a thought, such lowered expectations, indicates her growing debility, her descent into vagrancy. Claire is one of Brookner's most marginalised protagonists, and Undue Influence one of her rawest novels. And it is all the more unsettling because of the lightness of the opening few chapters. After a certain point the novel gets bleaker and bleaker with every passing line.

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