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Like many of Brookner's novels, this one is about a woman struggling to recover from her relationship with a selfish and demanding mother. There's a best friend, a job at a bookstore, a few deaths, lots of walking in the park and coffee, and a relationship with a man that is important but passionless.
The book offers the listener hours of impeccably crafted sentences (although the word "anodyne" --a favorite of Brookner--appears a few too many times) and beautifully shrewd, unsparing insights into characters' behavior and psychologies. The climax of the novel revolves around a dream, something I found disappointing. But if you're reading for plot, you would never pick up Brookner to begin with. I found the beginning and end slow, the middle fantastic and gripping. Brookner has a singular talent for imbuing minor events and dull routine with psychological peril. It's the fifteenth novel of hers I've read. I'm a devoted fan and in awe of her large and peculiar oeuvre, even if some of her books disappoint around the edges.
Diana Quick has a gorgeous voice and is an actress of exceptional restraint and power. She's best known for her star turn in Brideshead Revisited back in the early 1980's. Her tone is rich, and she communicates intelligence and (appropriately) traces of melancholy and regret. On the other hand, her voice is that of a mature woman (she's in her late 60's) and Claire, the first-person narrator, is a smart but somewhat immature 29-year-old. In that sense, I found her an odd choice as performer for this particular novel.
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