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Visitors: A Novel by Anita Brookner

Visitors: A Novel

by Anita Brookner

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Dorothea May, a 70-year-old widow, lives alone in her London flat and is totally fine with that. Her day is filled with the small things in life: going out to get a newspaper or shop for her dinner, or enjoying a cup of tea in her garden. Her sisters-in-law, Kitty and Molly, check on her through obligatory Sunday phone calls, polite exchanges with little emotional connection. Then one day, Kitty asks Dorothea to take on a houseguest. Kitty’s granddaughter, Ann, has been living in the States but is coming to London with her fiancé, David, to get married. Their best man, Steve, will join them and needs a place to stay. Dorothea has little choice but to say yes. Steve is wandering aimlessly through life, with no job or prospects. Dorothea offers bed and breakfast, and even hires a car for his use, but never gets over her discomfort at having another person in her flat. Meanwhile, Kitty is throwing herself into planning a lavish celebration that Ann and David don’t really want, and tensions run high. Over the course of the novel, Dorothea’s relationship with Kitty and the family moves from distant in-law to trusted confidante, and Dorothea begins to envision something different for herself as well.

Anita Brookner began writing fiction in her 50s, and this novel was published when she was about 70, the same age as her heroine. I can’t help but think she was using this book to work through her own conflicted feelings about aging and independence. The narrative was a bit repetitive in spots, but I found Dorothea likeable and admirable, and enjoyed her story. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | Jul 11, 2017 |
So well written I was very involved with the inner thoughts of some of the characters. The book is sad, but also shows that people can change. The protagonist seemed like a very elderly 70-year-old. ( )
  suesbooks | Jul 9, 2017 |
Very little happens. A young man visits for a few days. Time enough for an elderly woman to examine her comfortable, lonely relationship with the world. She is reinforced in her view of herself as being important, purely through being who she is. Another wise and sedate story by Anita Brookner.
  ivanfranko | May 31, 2016 |
Slow, quite serious and it thoroughly entertained me. I think the "young people" bursting into the lives of the "old people" in this book got rather a bad rap, and there are so few characters on the stage that it sometimes feels like a dreadful stereotype. But mostly: good stuff.
  nocto | Dec 8, 2010 |
Anita Brookner has a way of making you look at life i which is not always cheerful. Here we have Dorothea - 73 -lives alone (widowed for 15 years) in a London mansion flat. The cousins of her late husband telephone on a Sunday, and she has lunch in an Italian restaurant. That is her life. Until,that is, she is presuaded, to put up the best man of a small wedding party in her spare room. Steve is 22 - and his presence in her life changes Dorothea in small but meaningful ways.

This is beautifully written, Anita Brookner's world is one we recognise, although may not have lived oursleves. It is a world of gentility, mansion flats and London restaurants, noone seems really poor. Within 200 pages or so you come to understand everything about Dorothea'stime on this earth, her childhood, her late marriage, her old age. It's not always a happy picture, but it's so beautifully done, that you come to accept to melancholy feeling that always threatens to descend. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Jan 5, 2010 |
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Towards evening the oppressive heat was tempered by a slight breeze, although this merely served to power drifts and eddies of a warmth almost tropical in its intensity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679781471, Paperback)

The extraordinary Anita Brookner, praised by The New York Times as "one of the finest novelists of her generation," gives us a brilliant novel about age and awakening.  In Visitors, Brookner explores what happens when a woman's quiet resignation to fate is challenged by the arrogance of youth.

Dorothea May is most at ease in the company of strangers.  When her late husband's relatives prevail on her to take in a young man for the week before an unexpected family wedding, Thea's carefully constructed, solitary world is thrown into disarray.  As the wedding approaches, old family secrets surface and conflicts erupt between the generations, trapping an unwilling Thea in the middle.  Confronted by the company of Steve Best, a carefree young wanderer, Thea's fragile facade of peaceful acceptance is pierced, forcing her to face in a new way both her past and her future.

Exquisite writing, richly drawn characters, and penetrating prceptions about people are here combined into another superb novel by the writer about whom The New York Times Book Review has said, "If Henry James were around, the only writer he'd be reading with complete approval would be Anita Brookner."

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:33 -0400)

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Widow Dorothea May's solitary world is thrown into disarray when she meets a young wanderer whose presence forces her to face both her past and her future.

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