Review: Strangers


By Anita Brookner
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307472601, July 2010, 256pp.)

The Short of It:

Amusing, sharp and unusually accommodating… these characters give meaning to the term, “growing old gracefully.”

The Rest of It:

Paul Sturgis is a 70-something bachelor living in a quiet, London flat. Never married, and having only one living relative, a distant cousin named Helena, Paul finds himself wandering about looking for something but he’s not sure what. To avoid the dreaded Christmas invitation from Helena, he decides to take holiday in Venice.

In Venice, he meets Vicky Gardner. Vicky is an interesting sort. She is pretty,  recently divorced and essentially homeless since she has no permanent place to call home. She flits from place to place, seemingly happy in her travels. Paul, unusually reserved gives his number to Vicky and then immediately regrets it. How lonely does one have to be to finally realize that at the age of 72, being with someone might be better than being alone?

This was my first Brookner and I enjoyed it immensely. These characters are proper, polite and exceedingly friendly, but utterly lonely. They are “strangers” in that they have no idea how to co-exist with one another. Innocent conversations turn into something else and then before you know it, in walks awkwardness. It’s all incredibly entertaining but in a quiet, understated way.

I understand that Strangers is Brookner’s 23rd novel. I can’t believe it took me this long to read one of her books but now I want to read them all. It’s not as if there was a lot going on in this one, or that it was even a page-turner, but it’s the type of writing that I enjoy. When I writer can take every day things and make them interesting, then he/she has my attention.

Brookner fans, which of her books shall I read next?

Source: Borrowed

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35 thoughts on “Review: Strangers”

  1. I never knew she had so many titles. I agree with you so much about this kind of writing. It is just so savor able.
    I would toss titles in a hat and choose your next one randomly!!!

    1. I am trying to read new authors this year. I had heard of Brookner before but had no idea how many books she’s written. Quite a few and they all sound really good.

  2. Brookner is also new to me, but I like what you had to say about this book. I am especially intrigued by the fact that so many of the conversations and situations in this book devolve into awkwardness. It sounds like this book would totally be my cup of tea, so I am going to have to check it out. Wonderful review, by the way!

    1. Maybe Brookner is more of a fave with readers outside of the US. Seems like many US readers haven’t even heard of her. I knew of her but her books are not always readily available, I guess. Or maybe I should say…visible.

  3. Various people keep insisting I read Brookner because she is so wonderful, but I still have resisted (there’s that huge number of books that could do in an obsessive series pursuer like me!)

  4. I read Brookner years ago and haven’t read more of her books since. You have me questioning why, especially as I recall thoroughly enjoying the ones I did read. This one sounds divine, and I adore Venice, so I’ll jump at most things set there.

    1. I’m always so thrilled to find a new-to-me author that I actually like. I can’t wait to go through her other books to see which one I’ll read next.

    1. I say, jump! There are so many to choose from. I’m sure there are quite a few on audio too. The only other book of hers I’ve heard of is Hotel du Lac which won the Booker Prize in ’84.

  5. I’ve never read any of her novels either but this book sounds just like something I’d like. I love the kind of books that just flow – nothing earth shattering has to happen but they are fantastic just the same.

  6. I love that she didn’t publish her first book until after she was 50. I have Hotel du Lac on my shelf but I haven’t read it yet. Strangers sounds very good and I like quiet books as well as older characters.

  7. I read one Brookner novel years ago (can’t remember the name), and picked up Hotel du Lac at the library book sale over the summer. Thomas (My Porch) co-hosted International Anita Brookner Day in July. Here’s a link to the blog – lots of reviews there:
    Strangers sounds very good… definitely some Brookner novels ahead for me!

  8. Ok! I’m sold! I’ve never read anything by Anita Brookner, but if you say this is a good introduction, I’ll go with it. When I get around to trying her novels, I’ll start here!

  9. Well, at least you read one of her books. I hadn’t even HEARD of her before this post. If it is anything like your love of Makamuri, I’m sure you will wear me down and have me trying one of her books soon.

  10. I’ve been curious about Brookner for a while, and had been planning to check her books. But then I forgot about it. Glad you liked this one – I’m going to add it!

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