by Julie HaleMarch 2007
In her 23nd novel, Brookner tells the story of one woman's search for fulfillment during the liberal years of the 1970s. Raised by her widowed mother, Emma Roberts experienced a childhood of solitude in London. She developed a close bond with her mother that has remained unmatched throughout her 26 years. Emma's first real attempt at independence leads her to pursue a doctoral degree in classical garden design at a school in Paris. Her friends there include the daring Francoise, a free-spirited librarian, and Michael, an introverted writer. When Emma learns of her mother's death, she is forced to return to London. There, she meets Philip Hudson, a doctor with a quiet nature a kindred spirit to whom she is drawn despite her grief. Yet Emma's shyness forces her to hang back and succumb to circumstance and, where Philip is concerned, she is unable to act. The reader can't help but root for Emma a woman who lives within her own set limits, with a nature better-suited to the 19th century. Brookner's fiction has been compared to that of Edith Wharton and Henry James, and it's easy to see why, given the precision of her prose and her crystalline rendering of Emma's inner psychology. This luminous and quietly moving novel has all the makings of an old-fashioned classic.