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A Start in Life [Paperback]

Anita Brookner
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Jun 1991
Since childhood, Ruth Weiss has been escaping from life into books, from the hothouse attentions of her parents into the warmth of lovers and friends. Now Dr Weiss, at 40, knows that her life has been ruined by literature and that once again she must make a new start.

Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (27 Jun 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140147438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140147438
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What A Debut, And What A Shock It's Out of Print 7 April 2010
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 1000 REVIEWER
`A Start in Life' is really the tale of Ruth Weiss and as we meet her she seems to be undergoing some sort of mid life crisis all of which she blames on literature in the wonderful opening line. `Dr Weiss, at forty, knew her life had been ruined by literature.' From this point of realisation we are taken back through Ruth's childhood at Oakwood Court, her schooling days, life in London and Paris and onwards meeting her family friends and lovers along the way.

There is a plot to the book as it is based on one woman's life and the experiences she has. However its not plot driven, really it's a book that through some rather wonderful characters looks at many different themes. For example through George and Helen, Ruth's parents, you are given the story of both the aging process and some of its perils and marriage as it goes through several decades. Anthea who Ruth meet's at school illustrates the varying emotions, protectiveness and competitiveness of friendship. Through Ruth's varying relationships we see differing views of love and their effects on people.

It's the characters their backgrounds and wit that Brookner gives to them that make this such a joy to read. Ruth's mother is hilarious and a complete scene stealer which is apt as she is a retired actress. With her looks faded she now spends most of her days in bed with some alcoholic drink and the memories of her fame and beauty. She does venture out of bed now and again, though slightly begrudgingly and always dramatically, and always gives you wonderful lines.

I can see why some people say that Brookner should have been writing in the 1930's because it has that feel and charming appeal.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anita Brookner's first novel 19 Aug 2007
In her first novel published in 1981, the author portrays Dr Ruth Weiss who became an authority on women since the publication of her study "Women in Balzac's Novels". The opening sentence in the novel is as follows: "Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature".
And so the author retraces Ruth's youth and her inability to engage in a durable relationship with a man. In this sense Ruth strongly feels that she resembles the main character in Balzac's "Eugénie Grandet" because Eugénie was always uncomfortable with hopeless love. Ruth often thinks of Eugénie's reflection in the novel: "Je ne suis pas assez belle pour lui" and "Je suis trop laide, il ne fera pas attention à moi". Who is to blame for her loveless life? Her parents Helen and George who always required her attention? Her own indecisive character? The men she met in her life? When one reaches the end of the novel, one realises that Ruth's loveless life is due to a series of reasons which seem to engulf her despite her own will, or rather that her own will is too weak to offer any kind of resistance to the demands of life and of other people.
A delicate and sophisticated first novel which marked the beginning of a great literary career.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A terrific read 28 April 2013
I've just finished this short, engaging novel. It stands out for the deft, humorous characterization of almost every character, major and minor, and its mixture of humor and sadness---I laughed out loud at least once and was near to tears at points towards the end. Though notionally the story of Ruth Weiss, it is as much a family drama, of three generations, taking Ruth from childhood to her forties always in the context of her family's story, with a focus on that of her parents both collectively and individually. I found the telling of her father's story particularly brilliant. Very highly recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishingly assured first novel 26 Dec 2003
By A Customer
What a great first novel this is. Finely drawn characters, scholarly yet humourous. Wonderful lines : "Quite pretty," said Helen, blowing smoke down her chiselled nostrils, "but not your type,darling. She has the soul of an air hostess."
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Anita Brookner should have been born a hundred years ago- her writing style- though sophisticated and luxurious- is stuffy, old and slow- just like a Jane Austen novel. If you like that sort of style then ASIL will be an excellent rea for you but I, personally, am of the opinion that such lines as: "the child assudiously applied herself to the pianoforte" should have been left in the coils of history along with bonnets and mangles. Unfortunatly, for those also of my opinion, ASIL like all Brookner's books, is all about her prose style and very little actually takes place in the novel except the rites of passage of a particullarly uniteresting Fanny Price type character.
Despite this there are some moments where ASIL is very moving and well describes the formal family life now forgotton of English middle class.
A book for those who enjoy heavy, narrative lead novels. Avoid if you want an insight into modern life.
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