A Friend from England is a 1987 novel by Booker prize-winner Anita Brookner. She published her first novel when she was 53 years old. I love the way she writes and pick up everything I see by her. Her main characters tend to be intellectual women, and the books explore their lives and emotions. It's not that there isn't plenty going on in this book, but most of the movement seems to me to be going on inside the main character.
Here's a sample of descriptive writing from the middle of the book:
I realized to my surprise that the year had turned. One always expects the summer to last for much longer than it does: one forgets the very sensation of being cold. Yet the people that I passed no longer had that expansive air that goes with the summer season; their heads were lowered, their walk purposeful. Shorter days and longer nights were upon us.I found this quote interesting:
I could think of no more gross behavior to a woman than this indifference, this coarse bungling of her emotions. Whatever women put up with from men, they should never countenance indifference.from the back of the book:
Part-owner of a London bookshop and thirty-two years old, Rachel Kennedy is self-sufficient and somewhat chilly. No one knows much of the affairs of her heart. But when Oscar Livingstone asks her to be his daughter's mentor as his daughter emerges into womanhood, Rachel finds herself caught up in Heather's romances in ways she hadn't anticipated. In the end she measures her own unencumbered, carefully gauged liberty against what she sees as Heather's irresponsible abandon, and takes it upon herself as a duty to force an unforgettable confrontation. From London to Venice this elegant, revealing, beautifully controlled study builds to a startling unmasking of its protagonists and their motives.Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "The vulgarity of the world pains the Brookner protagonist no end -and the result, especially here, is pure starch." The Independent's review says, "Anita Brookner is a novelist of astonishing technical skill, and A Friend from England is a very good book."
The LA Times says, "What we are reading is not a social comedy or novel of sensibility, but an allegorical debate between a false life of repression and a true life of risks and engagements." The London Review of Books ends its review by saying, "Rachel’s progressive discovery of Heather’s true calibre and the finally devastating effect of that on her own sense of self provides the novel’s momentum. The story develops into a kind of contest between them."
The Paris Review has an interview with Brookner in which she describes A Friend from England as "a very old-fashioned moral tale".