Category Archives: International Anita Brookner Day

Granny Savidge Reads… On Anita Brookner

“I liked Hotel du Lac, I think I would appreciate it more now, . [After taking it off her shelves] Ooh did it win the Man Booker Prize… In fact maybe I should re-read it soon… I saw her once down Oxford Street… She’d look just like you’d expect and acted just like you’d think.”

I’m not sure what the last bit means but it’s nice to know Anita has been Savidge Reads spotted even if in a slightly tenuous way! I thought I’d just ask while I’m with her. Gran I mean, I’m not secretly at Anita’s birthday party. Honest.

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It’s International Anita Brookner Day…

Well its here.  International Anita Brookner day has arrived on the authors 83rd Birthday, so wishing you a very happy birthday Ms Brookner. I know she knows about the day, her publishers told me that she was ‘tickled pink’ so I hope that they go over to the official International Anita Brookner Day blog and see the posts that you have done from all over the blogosphere and all over the world. I want to say a huge thanks from me and Thomas (who has even tried to get his dog, the lovely Lucy, to give one of her books a whirl) for everyone who has joined in.

I also want to take time to thank Thomas who took a comment I made in an email and made it real and has been much better than me sorry brilliant at push and mentioning the event and making the awesome logo. What a star! I am organising him a little special something to say thanks. Anyway back to business.

Today you can expect me to be popping over to the IABD blog and leaving comments (and playing catch up) on all the posts, I have a post called ‘Anita and Me’ arriving later on today, and if I can finish it, and I am really trying to, another Anita Brookner review of another Anita treat.

So let me know if you have written about her, so I can doubly check that I have read your lovely posts, and enjoy the day. If you still haven’t tried her yet I hope you are enticed. See you on the IABD blog during the day, looking forward to it.

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Five Days To Go…

…Until Thomas and myself host International Anita Brookner Day. Its coming around remarkably quickly, so I wanted to give you all a timely reminder that you have 5 days (which is easily enough time to devour a Brookner, it can be done in a few sittings – so pop to the library on your lunch break… or your local bookshop) and join in with all the fun we will be having on Saturday.

I will have devoured another by then, mind you its taking me ages to decide which one. Typically its ‘Strangers’ – which I don’t have – that I actually fancy reading the most at the moment. I will have to rethink that one I think. Which one will you be reading, or which have you already read? Thomas has done a great post on ‘A Start in Life’/’The Debut’ which I also really loved – its a book lovers book. Do let me know. Oh and don’t forget that it has a site all of its own now.

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Look At Me – Anita Brookner

You may remember that Thomas of ‘My Porch’ and myself are having a special day celebrating all things Anita Brookner. I decided I should get a few read in the lead up, and the first of those was ‘Look At Me’. It’s always interesting when you have decided you are going to do a challenge, and the same applies to some Daphne Du Maurier reading I will be doing for another venture, you become rather worried that the next book you read by that author will put you off, especially when all the ones you have read so far have been a real joy.

Well, I admit that after a great first paragraph, with the brilliant first sentence ‘once a thing is known, it can never be unknown’, I was actually seriously worried that I was going to loathe ‘Look At Me’ from its first five or so pages. The term wading through treacle springs to mind, endless paragraphs on depression, melancholy, death and lunacy. It wasn’t looking good. Thank heavens then that I decided I would give it a first chapter then, because in a single page I was rewarded by some of the types of prose and characters that I have experienced and loved in Brookner’s work before.

‘That’, says Mrs Halloran heavily, after every other one of Nick’s disruptive visits to the Library, ‘is one hell of a man’, at which point Olivia asks her to be quiet and observe the rule of silence, and Mrs Halloran says, ‘Miss Benedict, why don’t you get a hold of that sodding offprint I’ve been asking for every day for the last month instead of telling me what to do? I don’t tell you what to do, do I?’
 ‘You just have’, says Olivia, who is never less than totally composed , and after that they subside for an hour or two, until dissension breaks out again over the matter of whether Mrs Halloran gets a cup of tea or not. Oddly enough, Olivia quite likes her, although I suspect that she finds her life in the Library rather painful at times. But she never says anything. How could she? Apart from her unspoken love for Nick, there is her unspoken dislike of his behaviour. Neither, of course, will ever register with him. It is when I think about this that I congratulate myself on not being in love with anyone. I am not in love with Nick. I am not in love with Dr Leventhal (difficult to imagine) or Dr Simek (even more difficult) or even with James Anstey, even though he is tall and ferocious-looking and presentable and not married and undoubtedly what Mrs Halloran would call a bit of a handful.’    

So what is the subject of ‘Look At Me’? It is interesting that the initial part of the book that bored me with the descriptions of depression and melancholy are in a way what this book is about. In fact I think the best way to describe, our narrator, Frances Hinton’s life is a solitary one, and one that Brookner can do so well. Frances admits that her life is one lived very much alone, where she lives is ‘for old people’, and really for the main the most interaction she has is with her colleagues and that’s how she befriends Nick and his beautiful wife Alix and then becomes adopted as their ‘pet project’.

That’s all I am going to give you in terms of plot because really with a slim volume of 192 pages, if I said too much I would give everything away and you wouldn’t then be put through the emotional (both high and low) wringer that Brookner has in store for you and that would very much be to the detriment of ‘Look At Me’. It’s a book you need to read in order to actually experience it.

I don’t know if that’s enough to satisfy you and ponder giving it a read but I do advise that you do. Brookner is on fine form (well after the initial hurdle) in this book and everything after the awkward start makes up for it without question. Frances is one of Brookner’s wonderful heroines who starts out a little acidic and brittle and yet slowly wins you over. It’s also interesting to watch a character like that unfold, and possibly even unravel.  I don’t know why but I think the fact that she is writer made me like Frances all the more. I did wonder if there was an autobiographical note to this book, maybe that’s just clutching at straws though. I also loved Nancy, Francis’ maid, who it seems loved Francis’ mother, who hired her, and far more than Francis did and won’t let her forget it. The background characters are always vivid and fully formed another thing I love about Brookner.

I know it’s not the longest review, but its not the longest of books – which makes it even more of an ideal read for giving Brookner a try if you haven’t already, or to take a tentative step. I am trying to think of the last time I started a book thinking ‘oh I don’t want to read this’ and ending up thinking ‘oh I don’t want this to end’. That is exactly the effect that ‘Look At Me’ had on this reader. It is such a shame it is out of print. I am only hoping that my further reading of Anita Brookner carries on in the same way. 9/10

This book is one I bought second hand many moons ago.

I am hoping that has wet your appetite, or wet it further for ‘International Anita Brookner Day’ which is now mere weeks away. If the selection of her prose above wasn’t enough, pop to the post below and you will see that there are some other incentives to read-a-long on July 16th! There is of course the possiblility you have read this, if so what did you think? Can any of you recommend which direction I go next with Brookner? I am sure it will be a joy whichever path it takes me down. Oh and who is joining in with International Anita Brookner Day, do let me know.

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Fancy Winning Some Brookner Books?

We are just slightly under a month away from International Anita Brookner Day on July 16th. If you are wondering just what it is, then pop here. For those of you who have yet to begin the very, very easy challenge of participating in IABD, this is meant to be a kick in the pants. Remember all you have to do is read one novel by Anita Brookner by July 16th and then post about it on your blog or send me your thoughts/reviews and I will post them on the official IABD website.

All winners will get the paperback of their choice from the huge selection at The Book Depository.

Remember, you don’t have to have a blog to participate and win. One prize will be given for each category:

Best Review

Best Brookner Related Musing (non-review)

Best Picture of your pet reading Anita Brookner (this can be interpreted loosely)

Participation Prize (random draw from those who didn’t win any of the other awards)

The fine print;

  • Prizes will only be considered for those who submit their writing/picture or link to their blog post to my email address: onmyporch [at] hotmail [dot] com or savidgereads [at] gmail [dot] com. This is the only way we can ensure that everyone who wants to be included is.
  • You must notify us no later than 11:00 PM U.S. Eastern Daylight Savings Time in order to be eligible.
  • All entries will be posted on the official IABD website.
  • Thomas of My Porch and I will be the judges.

***SPECIAL REQUEST: If you are a blogger submitting, please when you submit the link to your review/music post via email, can you also copy and paste the HTML draft of your review/musing in its entirety in the body of your email. I know in Blogger when you are editing a post you can click on the “Edit HTML” tab and then copy every single bit of info there and past it into the body of your email. Hopefully other blog platforms allow you to do likewise. This will greatly help streamline getting your post up on the IABD website.***

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International Anita Brookner Day

I mentioned over the weekend that I was in the mood, and in terms of research in need, of reading more female written fiction over the coming months. I am taking up my own mini challenge of reading as many of The Orange Longlist as I can and with my place on the panel at Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge’s ‘Women’s Word’ festival discussing men’s reading (or the case of lots of them not) of women writers I wondered if you could tell me some of your favourite female writers. Well I have taken up a small mini challenge with the lovely Thomas of My Porch in order to co-host a day when we celebrate a female author we both really admire and that is Anita Brookner and we would love you to join in.

Last year after I read the stunning ‘A Start in Life’ which has stayed with me ever since, I emailed Thomas about doing something Brookner based, maybe Anita August or some such. However life, as is often its want, got in the way and nothing quite came to fruition… until earlier in the year when Thomas emailed me and now we are having a single day dedicated to the lady herself and ‘International Anita Brookner Day’ was born. (And it is international as Thomas and I are on completely different sides of the Atlantic and we are hoping you all join in from all over the world.) Its single aim is just to get more of you reading Brookner’s work.

So what do you have to do to be involved? One single thing is all that is required, simply read one of her books by the 16th of July 2011 (which will be Brookner’s 83rd Birthday) and tell myself and Thomas about it and we will link you and your thoughts whilst doing some posts of our own on the day, and hopefully (if I can make it happen) we will have some lovely international giveaways. So far Thomas has been much more ‘Brookner busy’ than me coming up with a wonderful button for the day (see above) and also a list of all her works you can choose from and where to head. I am pleading sickness as a reason for my slowness in mentioning all this, but better late than never.

If you are wondering ‘why on earth should I read Anita Brookner?’ the answer simply ‘you just should’ yet is a hard one to put my finger on instantly. I would say it’s a certain quiet writing charm. Some people find her depressing, which I can see as she is quite melancholic sometimes but its immensely readable. She’s understated, she’s subtle, every word counts and her books are about people and places rather than an overwhelming plot. If you like your books with plots fear not though, they are there. I haven’t read a huge range of her work as yet, though the ones that I have read have been stunning and over the last couple of years since reading her Booker winning ‘Hotel Du Lac’, which charmed me instantly, I have been buying her back catalogue as and when I see it.

I now have the perfect chance in the lead up to July the 16th to devour the ones I own which are ‘Altered States’, Falling Slowly’, ‘Latecomers’, ‘Look At Me’ and ‘The Bay of Angels’ though you know what I am like, I will be using this as an excuse to get all the ones I don’t have in the lead up to it too and reporting back on them, and reminding you to get reading her too. So will you be joining us, I do hope everyone who pops by Savidge Reads will, and which of her 24 titles might you choose?

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