Thursday 29 November 2018

A Private View: Chapter by Chapter: 7, 8, 9

  • By the time she wrote A Private View Anita Brookner was well established and in mid-career. The novel shows great ease and confidence. Its long passages of introspection are masterly. In chapter 7 we get a metafictional line she probably wouldn't have risked in an earlier novel: 'It was like a detective story, or a novel by Henry James'. Indeed.
  • Bland's walk into the suburbs of Fulham is precisely recorded, and the interested reader can now follow his journey on Google Earth.
  • The stakes are high for George Bland - but not as high as they are for later Brookner oldsters: in The Next Big Thing, Strangers and 'At the Hairdresser's'. They're in real jeopardy, and so (perhaps) was their creator.
  • Bland's vision of a rakish life with Katy in foreign locales 'might have been the supreme emotional adventure'. Supreme emotional adventure: this is a favourite phrase. See an earlier post here.
  • 'The beauty of the plan was that each would think he had the best of the bargain': there's something wonderfully antique about this sentence, something you probably wouldn't read very often now, or indeed then. It's the use of 'he' to refer to 'each'. Here 'each' means George and Katy, male and female. What would another writer write? 'They'? 'She'?
  • How much time passes? A Private View is surely the most condensed of Brookners, but so involved and 'exhausting' are George Bland's thoughts that the reader loses all track of the days. How much time separates the opening in Nice from, say, the scenes in chapters 7, 8 and 9, more than halfway through the book? Two or three? But no, chapter 1 takes place in November and chapter 9 on 18 December. I could of course go back and trace the time-scheme, but I actually haven't the time - and in any case I reckon it's completely off-kilter. This isn't the only Brookner novels where time is confused and confusing.
  • But the dates given in chapter 9 are very specific to December 1992.
  • I note Brookner's use of the phrase 'undue influence', which would be called into service again as the title of her 1999 novel.
Cranach, Das Ungleiche Paar,
Akademiegalerie, Vienna


  1. Just want to commend your dedication, I visit the site when I'm feelign the need for some Brookner passion. She continues to dazzle me.

  2. And the lack of Brooknerian precison in missing the typo is shameful.

  3. Many thanks for commenting. Brookner is indeed dazzling, and I am hopeful more and more readers will see this as time passes. I'm not sure what you mean about the typo. Do you mean the 'beauty of the plan' sentence? Here Brookner's use of the masculine pronoun is simply the pre-feminist standard grammatical choice.


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