20 March 2011

IABD: Anita Brookner's 24 novels (so far)

When I first announced that Savidge Reads and My Porch would be hosting International Anita Brookner Day (IABD) blogger Verity at The B Files asked me if I would supply a reading list and/or recommendations. I can certainly give you a reading list but I hesitate to give recommendations. One of the reasons is because--and I know this may bother some when I say it--her novels are so similar in theme and tone that it is a little hard for me to keep them straight. Perhaps closer readers with better recall can more easily differentiate one from the other, but I really can't. I know that Hotel du Lac, besides being a Booker winner is the one that takes place at a hotel in Switzerland. But beyond that I am hard pressed to give too many details for the rest of Brookner's novels.

For those of you who have yet to read Brookner you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. If all of them are similar why bother right? You should bother because each of her novels, regardless of plot, is a perfectly wrought gem of introspective genius.  And once you discover that you love one of them, you have 23 others still to read.

Okay, so they are introspective, but what else? Most are set in London. Many include trips to (or plans to go to) the continent, (usually France or French speaking Switzerland). The protagonists often have an academic bent. I think without exception all are upper middle class, usually with a financial legacy that makes employment unnecessary. Almost all are female but Brookner has written a few male leading characters. You might assume that her heroines tend to be spinsters but they just as likely, or perhaps even more likely to be widows. And for some reason I imagine them all wearing lots of beige and cantaloupe-y colors. Maybe because all of the 1980s US first editions from Pantheon are in beigy, mauvy tones.

I realize as I wrote that last paragraph that although the thoughts are mine, I may be subconsciously cribbing the general outline from Peta Mayer's fabulous blog dedicated to all things Anita. Not only will I be referring to Peta's blog from time to time over the coming months, but she has agreed to write something about AB especially for My Porch.

So, without further ado, here are Anita Brookner's 24 novels. I have included year published. Since I am not giving any recommendations, I thought I would include how each title scored in my ranking system, but when I went to look at my list all but one ranked a 9 (Loved ). Only (and perhaps oddly) Hotel du Lac got less than a 9. It got an 8 (Almost loved). No single Brookner title achieves a perfect 10 (All time favorite) but her fiction as a whole does indeed garner a 10 on the My Porch scale.

1981  A Start in Life (US title: The Debut)
1982  Providence
1983  Look at Me
1984  Hotel du Lac (Booker Winner)
1985  Family and Friends
1986  A Misalliance
1987  A Friend from England
1988  Latecomers
1989  Lewis Percy
1990  Brief Lives
1991  A Closed Eye (The ONLY one I haven't read.)
1992  Fraud
1993  A Family Romance (US title: Dolly)
1994  A Private View
1995  Incidents in the Rue Laugier
1996  Altered States
1997  Visitors
1998  Falling Slowly
1999  Undue Influence
2001  The Bay of Angels
2002  The Next Big Thing (US title: Making Things Better)
2003  The Rules of Engagement
2005  Leaving Home
2009  Strangers

Some of you have already told me which Brookner novel(s) you have in your TBR pile and plan to read for IABD. For those of you who don't have one at hand, in my experience they are pretty easy to find in secondhand shops and in public libraries. You can also find newer hardcover remainders fairly often as well. So, no excuses.


  1. I have gathered a few but have decided to definitely commit to Leaving Home for a variety of reasons. If time permits, I will get to more.

  2. I have only read Hotel du Lac (review in archives, approximately August '09). While I did not love it, I did enjoy it and may be convinced to pick up another at some point.

  3. What a great idea to have an Anita Brookner day. I've only read one novel by her, Look at Me, which I loved! I actually can't figure out why I never picked another novel by her. Maybe I was afraid to be disappointed after that one book. This day will definitely inspire me to pick another one.

  4. I am glad you said what you did about the similarity of the titles, that is why I wondered about recommendations. The list is helpful though thank you.

    I think I shall have to consult my spreadsheets to work out which ones I have and haven't read!

  5. Frances: I think I am going to choose the one I haven't read yet (A Closed Eye). And then I am going to start over and read them chronologically over the years.

    Claire: I would love it if you join us. As I noted HdL wasn't my favorite.

    Mrs. B: That is exactly what I want to inspire.

    Verity: I had to pull out my spreadsheet as well to figure out which one I still had to read.

  6. Greetings from Sydney, Australia.
    Wonderful initiative Thomas...many thanks. I might choose "The Next Big Thing" because of the lonely male protagonist. I have read them all and my only decision now is to start all over again! I am obsessed with novels containing lonely beige genders of a certain age filling in time before the next disappointment.

    We now need an ELIZABETH TAYLOR [the novelist] day and a BARBARA PYM day. Then I can die happy.

    Your blog is just wonderful.

  7. Having recently read “Hotel du Lac”, I checked out “Falling Slowly” from the library yesterday. Most of her novels are pretty short, just around 200 pages, so I might find time to read one or two more between now and July. I don’t think I will mind if they are all similar. Generally, when I find an author I love, I love the very fact that the books have similar styles. The inverse is true for me as well. I don’t like Isabelle Allende; I don’t care if the plots are different or not. I have read three of her books, so it’s not like I haven’t given her a chance.

  8. No excuses, ah? I guess I had better try and find one then..

  9. Amrapt: I would sign up for both of those. I love Pym, and I have never gotten around to Taylor.

    Ruthiella: For some reason I have stayed away from Allende. Maybe for good reason.

    Iris: Keep you eyes peeled for a giveaway this week.


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