Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Bay of Angels

The Bay of Angels is a 2001 novel -her 22nd- by Anita Brookner. This author always appeals to me, and I am reading her novels as I come across them.

from the fly leaf:
Zoe Cunningham is delighted when her widowed mother remarries, particularly as her new step-father is amiable, generous, and the owner of a villa in Nice. Enchanted visits come to an abrupt end when an entirely unexpected development leads to a bewildering decline in which both Zoe and Anne, her mother, are trapped.

Surrounded by strangers, no matter how well-meaning, Zoe and Anne yearn for home, although in different ways, even as that home appears ever more remote, and even as Zoe begins to follow the movements of a reclusive and alluring man. Forced to learn how and how not to trust appearances, Zoe hopes for a benign outcome, as she'd so often read about in the fairy tales of her childhood. It may in fact be possible, but only if she is willing to shed the illusions that those stories did so much to encourage.
The book begins:
I read the Blue Fairy Book, the Yellow Fairy Book, and the stories of Hans Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault. None of this was groundwork for success in worldly terms, for I was led to think, indeed I was minded to think, of the redeeming situation or presence which would put to rights the hardships and dilemmas under which the characters, and I myself, had been laboring. More dangerously, it seemed I need make no decisions on my own behalf, for destiny or fate would always have the matter in hand. Although I was too sensible, even as a child, to believe in a fairy godmother I accepted as part of nature's plan that after a lifetime of sweeping the floor I would go to the ball, that the slipper would fit, and that I would marry the prince. Even the cruel ordeals undergone by the little match girl, or by Hansel and Gretel, would be reversed by that same principle of inevitable justice which oversaw all activities, which guided some even if it defeated others. I knew that some humans were favoured -by whom? by the gods? (this evidence was undeniable)- but I was willing to believe in the redeeming feature, the redeeming presence that would justify all of one's vain striving, would dispel one's disappointments, would in some mysterious way present one with a solution in which one would have no part, so that all one had to do was to wait, in a condition of sinless passivity, for the transformation that would surely take place.
random quotes:
Even a happy ending cannot always banish a sense of longing.
That is why stories are so important: they reveal one to oneself, bringing into the forefront of one's consciousness realizations which so far have been dormant, unexamined.
What courage it must take to grow old!

The Guardian says, "If you had never read Anita Brookner before, you would be unreservedly delighted by this book. Its workmanship is such a treat." The New York Times has a positive review and says, "Freedom from attachment, the novel suggests, is no freedom at all."

other Brookner books I've read:

A Start in Life (1981, US title The Debut)
Hotel du Lac (1984)
A Misalliance (1986)
A Friend from England (1987)
Brief Lives (1990)
Fraud (1992)
A Family Romance (1993, US title Dolly)
Altered States (1996)
Visitors (1997)


  1. Oh yes! I've read most of Brookner but not this one. Off check the online library. Thanks!

    1. She's a treasure, isn't she. I hope your library has it for you.

  2. Replies
    1. This author really is priceless. I got rid of a lot of her books when I did the Marie Kondo book purge, and hers were hard.