Thursday 2 November 2017

Fraud: Englishness

In Fraud's second chapter Brookner focuses on Mrs Marsh, sturdy, viable, rough-hewn, taciturn, sensible. Mrs Marsh, one senses, isn't quite a self-portrait. Mrs Marsh is a character who turns up from time to time in Brookner: the no-nonsense Englishwoman.

Not that her obverse, Anna Durrant, is in any way not English. Anna is no Kitty Maule, no Edith Hope. There's no Jewishness, no Mitteleuropa, in Anna's background.

But Anna and her mother don't quite fit. They live a fairy-tale life in Albert Hall Mansions; the atmosphere, brilliantly, is described as 'eerily emollient'. Anna's arrival on the scene is preceded by the sound of a sewing machine, as if she were the Lady of Shalott.

Anna's father was a musician in the pit at Drury Lane. One has visions of almost Thackerayan artistic penury. Privately Mrs Marsh considers the Durrants rather common.

One little mystery about Mrs Marsh - whether she's a Catholic - is cleared up in chapter 3. In the previous two chapters we've had mentions of her visits to the Brompton Oratory. But no, she only goes there because it's convenient and she likes the ritual. I'm sure Barbara Pym, in Mrs Marsh's shoes, would have done the same.

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