Tuesday 21 November 2017

Fraud: Closing Remarks

Some final comments on Brookner's Fraud:
  • It's a novel about care and caring. This struck me only towards the end. Anna cares for her mother. Mrs Marsh is wary lest her own daughter become her carer (ch. 15). Even the predatory Vickie has 'a child's right to care and constant attention' (ch. 16). The novel's conclusion is markedly hard, cold, less than compassionate. Was Anna, in caring for her mother, truly a victim of fraud? I'm unconvinced by Anna in her final iteration. How long will she remain so blithe, so uncaring? Where is she now?
  • Fraud is also a novel about food. It brings together themes from previous novels, and advances them: Anna is all but anorexic. The set-piece scene in chapter 16 - the Hallidays' dinner party - compares with the restaurant episode at the end of Look at Me. There's terrible food - a terrine, cold and slippery as ice cream - and much horrifying conversation. There may not be a revelation, but the scene is nevertheless climactic. After this point, Anna ('pleine de pouvoir') makes her decision about her future. One other thing about the dinner party: Anna is the moral victor, regarding her hosts with something like pity. The tables are turned on the appalling Vickie Halliday: 'To be so transparent!' The reader cheers.
  • Fraud, better than any of Brookner's previous novels, handles narrative perspective expertly. The text's shifting eye gives us a kaleidoscope of views on Anna and her intriguing mystery. She comes in and out of focus. No sooner have we felt close to Anna, sympathetic to her plight, than we see her differently and less amenably. Fraud is probably the closest Anita Brookner comes to being an 'omniscient narrator'.
  • The ending reminds me again of Little Dorrit (see an earlier post here).
  • The title gives me pause. So dry, legalistic, brutalist: a curious Brookner characteristic as far as titles are concerned. Here's a parlour game. What would other novelists have called Fraud? Jane Austen: Self and Selflessness? Ivy Compton-Burnett: The Lost and the Found? Henry Green: Rejecting? Elizabeth Taylor or Barbara Pym: An Emergent Spring?

The cover of the UK first
edition, showing Titian's
Sacred and Profane Love

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