Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Misalliance, by Anita Brookner

Here is one of the many things I love about Anita Brookner - she didn't publish her first novel until she was 56! For those of us still hoping to make a bold and successful career move in middle age this is very heartening. Well, okay, maybe she'd already had a great academic career prior to becoming a novelist, but still...

There are many things to love about The Misalliance. Foremost is the prose, so carefully and elegantly crafted. Honestly it makes me feel smarter just to read such well-written language. This is my favorite phrase: "...vainly seeking transcendence, or at least translation, in whatever wine happened to be available that evening." I literally sighed with pleasure while reading this novel.

Second are the beautifully elucidated characters. Many are almost easy to dismiss as annoying, manipulative or arrogant. But for each there is at least one heart-twisting moment in which we see that they are flawed, and so deserve a measure of compassion.

Third is the plaintive question at the center of the book - what is it that makes men want (and continue to want) the women they choose? I happen to love novels in which the characters do a lot of soul-searching and come to many startling and profound conclusions about their personalities, so this one was right up my alley.

Where I heard about this book: I found it while browsing at the library. I'd been meaning to read something by Anita Brookner and there it was.

What I thought of this book
: Great! 4 1/2 stars

What this book is about: A middle-aged, middle-class British woman who has been divorced for about a year. She struggles to fill her days with appropriate, even meaningful, activity. A chance meeting with a small child and her disorganized mother inspires her to come to some conclusions about herself and about romantic relationships in general.

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