Falling Slowly

Falling Slowly

A Novel

Book - 1998
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The brilliant Anita Brookner, praised by The New York Times as "one of the finest novelists of her generation," now gives us a stunning story of two sisters and the strange patterns of identity and love.         The Sharpe sisters have lived a careful and contemplative existence. Miriam is a translator of French texts and Beatrice a moderately successful pianist. Their lives of quiet sophistication are suddenly interrupted by several complicated men: Max, Beatrice's agent; Simon, a handsome and charming married man; and Tom Rivers, a journalist who befriends Miriam. These men create disorder in the Sharpe sisters' controlled lives as Miriam, the unromantic stoic of the two, begins an affair and Beatrice's career undergoes an unexpected change.         The exquisite writing, affecting characters, and astonishing psychological perceptions for which Anita Brookner is famous are evident on every page of this beautiful novel by a modern master.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c1998
Edition: 1st U.S. ed. --
ISBN: 9780375501890
Branch Call Number: FIC Brook 3558ad 1
Characteristics: 227 p


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Sep 18, 2018

Extraordinary crafting gives this book its fourth star for me. Shy of a fifth star because it's a bit of work, not exactly riveting, and it takes close attention to get it all, and probably a second reading. Maybe that shouldn't be a negative, but four stars is solid, and I do need to reserve a star in my ratings for that book that I can't put down.

The beginning and end sandwich the middle, which is a flashback about two sisters' lives. We learn through the middle how this interesting woman came to be the solitary-by-choice person she is today. In the beginning I felt sorry for her; by the end I understood her choices.

Brookner is a challenging author for me, but I always learn things. She is the master of extremely subtle thoughts, ones that I often recognize but that don't often reach the surface, if ever, except through Brookner books. There are sometimes in her books thoughts I don't understand at all, but that is rare. Most of the thoughts I do understand. For example in the beginning, the main character admires a painting in a store but if she were to buy that painting putting it in in "her environment would eliminate the very luminescence to which she was attracted." That can really happen, not just with paintings but anything we see, buy and bring home can fade into the background and its magic instantly lost. But I never really thought about it before, but it's true. Hanging in a gallery or store, the item has an appeal. Placed in our mundane environments, it is itself diminished to the mundane.

Brookner is constantly exploring the very real limits within which our personalities trap us, and sometimes the characters come to terms with them in a satisfactory way, as in this book, and sometimes not, as in the last one I read (Making Things Better).

The English culture is quite different from American, from what I can tell. At least as portrayed by Brookner, it seems far more reticent, but still what is analyzed is relevant because the insights about society and culture can also be true in the USA.

"Now she was known for her reliability, but like most reliable people, not much valued."

"...but in reality, she was in search of the ideal family, one which would welcome her, protect her feelings, love her."

"Careless, she recognized. People like that, heavily endowed with family affections were always careless, born to carelessness. While she had trained herself to be careful. That was the difference that inevitably divided them."

"She felt consternation, a retrospective embarrassment, as if she had been a gullible girl...His charm should have warned her that this was a man who did not lie awake at nights tormented by moral problems." (Ha ha! I loved that one. We would call that "entitled.")

"Max, they both knew, was not a suitor; he was a courtier, and they had no illusions that this man, or any like him, could make a genuine commitment." (The charmer who can't commit, yes we have that too.)

Brookner does an amazing job of making the characters and their families seem real.

She's also excellent at describing chronic cardiovascular failure as experienced from within rather than as observed clinically from outside. And the reasoning for the choice not to treat it is also shown. I know firsthand not everyone chooses to treat his or her cardiovascular disease. Brookner handles this experience and this choice with great subtlety.

In the end, I found the book subtle, sad, but with an ending that was sweet and very realistic. As always, I learned more about life.


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PimaLib_SamR Feb 24, 2016

Those who remain unpartnered were still somehow suspect; their courage counting for nothing. And it took courage to contemplate the signs of ageing, to wonder on whose door she might knock if she were frightened, or ill.

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