Sunday 25 March 2018

Family and Friends: A European Family

Brookner, like James, is reluctant to show her hand. Just what exactly, for example, in Family and Friends, does the Dorns' firm manufacture?  And when are the early scenes of the novel set? Things are looking up for the Dorns, the 'unpromising debris of a European family'; the factory is beginning to thrive again. But when, historically, is all this taking place? The wedding scene in chapter 1 suggests the 1920s*, or even earlier. The songs being sung in the house in chapter 2 - Massenet, Delibes - hardly indicate the prevalence of modern popular culture. And yet we could well be post-1945.** Time passes so unchartably, so elastically in Brookner, and in this book more dizzyingly than most. Much of this is owing to the narrative method, where everything is viewed by a cool, urbane, magisterial eye, as if from Olympian heights.

*The novel's first chapter was published in Granta (here), with an accompanying photo of a plainly interwar wedding.

** Not till quite a bit later in the book (in chapter 6) does Brookner allow herself (or give in to) the exophoric reference we've been looking for:
Evie's papa has warned her privately of conditions in Europe and what they mean for families such as theirs. Wars, and rumours of war.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Questions and comments are always welcome. (Please note: there will be a short delay before publication, as comments are moderated.)