Friday 17 November 2017

Fraud: Padding

I'm interested by the middle chapters of Fraud. Here, as in other Brookners, especially later ones, the reader is conscious of authorial unease. In essence she's run out of story, run out of road. It's a predicament that often propels Brookner into new discoveries. These can be raw and difficult, especially in the 2000s novels. But Fraud is Brookner at her mildest, at her most content.

So we get Mrs Marsh and her friend Lady Martin 'taking tea' together in chapter 13. I wonder, reading this, what another writer would have made of the same circumstance. If Barbara Pym were writing the scene - or Jane Austen. But this being Brookner, the chapter soon descends into pitiless analysis, bleak self-knowledge, and existential anxiety. Embracing Lady Martin at the end, Mrs Marsh cannot but be aware, beneath her friend's Jolie Madame, of 'the smell of mortality'.

Then we have Dr Halliday and his terrible wife. Another stock situation given the Brookner treatment, and highly literary: by mistake I typed 'Dr Lydgate' a moment ago.

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