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3.9 out of 5 stars12
3.9 out of 5 stars
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...who are over 25, until we reach terminal velocity, as it were, for life's inevitable denouement? The title is a transparent metaphor for life, and is derived from listening to the radio for the "shipping forecast," which Americans would translate into the weather report. The report normally concludes with the weather at Mallin Head, and it is the barometric pressure that is "falling slowly."

Brookner is not for the "fun read" crowd, nor those who want their heroine to conquer all in the end. And alas, a number of critical reviews seem to be from readers hoping for same. No, Anita Brookner writes with acute and painful realism about the human dilemma, and frequently addresses that slice of humanity that are middle age, middle income Englishwomen who are making accommodations for their fate in life.

The novel is essential the story of two sisters, Beatrice and Miriam. Beatrice is the older; maintained romantic hopes throughout her life; and we learn early in the novel, dies in her `50's. Miriam is the more realistic younger sister who has taken care of her, to some extent, during Beatrice's period of decline. Each has had affairs and relationships with men. Brookner carefully delineates the operative parameters in the affairs, no doubt as women tend to, almost certainly more carefully than men. Meanwhile, the men are the minor characters, well-drawn, for sure, but still a backdrop. In the middle portion of the book Brookner presents alternating chapters in the lives of the two, before bringing them together towards the end.

Concerning the "backdrop," the portraits of Max Gruber, who had once been an ugly "ladies man," and had once been Beatrice's boss, as well as Max's replacement, Simon Haggard, rang painfully authentic. The only character who did not ring authentic was the TOO accommodating journalist, Tom Rivers. I particularly liked the scene in which Miriam is imagining the scene of Simon, with family, in Verbier, on Christmas and what she does about it. Like the "shipping forecast," Henry James is woven into the novel in several places; no doubt for his character portrayals, of which I consider Brookner his equal.

I like Brookner's style of writing a fairly straightforward sentence, and then adding three, four, five modifying clauses, as though it were a jewel held to the light, and with each additional clause, the jewel is turned slightly, for greater appreciation and depth of meaning. Her dominant themes are loneliness, solitude and remembrance for those who have finally achieved terminal velocity. Hardly unique themes in literature; perhaps those that contemplate them are the very ones driven to write about them.

Consider some of Brookner's insights: (Concerning the public image of Miriam helping the ill Beatrice): "Women admired them; men were if anything abruptly dismissive, sensing an oppressively sexless world of sacrifice and obligation." (Concerning men and women preparing themselves in the morning): "With a man there was no transition: the naked face and body were quickly transformed into the clothed adult human being, with nothing to hint at frailty, at disguise, at vigilance." (And summing up many a wife's assessment of her husband): "...she could hardly remember the actual corporeal presence of her husband, who seemed to have shrunk to a small compendium of irritating habits..." (Or on the games men and women play): "...she looked back at the radiant pantomimes of affection she had mustered for men who had meant nothing to her." "She would have urged them to enjoy men, as many men as possible, before they became aware, as he was now, of the neutered state that awaited them." (And on the aging process): "Youth, middle age, and `You're looking well'". "All those trim fifty- and sixty-year olds had annoyed him. They'll find out, he thought vengefully, as he allowed himself to be led from the room."

Rich, dense, insightful, as the above quotes indicate. Ms. Brookner packs more original thinking on the human condition in one of her 10-15 page chapters than are in much longer novels. A wonderful, solid, 5-stars.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on October 04, 2010)
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 November 2015
Anita Brookner's 'Falling Slowly' centres on middle-aged sisters, Miriam and Beatrice Sharpe who, in various ways and for various reasons, have almost isolated themselves from society and, in consequence, live somewhat confined lives of resignation and quiet regret.  Beatrice, the elder sister, is a piano accompanist who retires early when her contract is not renewed, and despite being the more romantically inclined of the pair, she has never married - in fact her romanticism is most probably the reason for her remaining unmarried, never having been able to find someone to live up to her ideals. Divorcee Miriam is a translator, who spends her days moving between her flat and the London Library, and is the more worldly and realistic of the two sisters, yet her more realistic view on life does not prevent her falling in love with a married man, although it does stop her from taking the opportunity to find some happiness with another man who is free to offer her what could be a richer and more fulfilling life. But is it too late for Miriam to grasp life and attempt to make an escape from what could become an existence of increasing isolation and loneliness?

As always with Anita Brookner, this is an absolutely exquisitely written novel and one where the author's customary polished prose is a pleasure to read - but, it's also one where Ms Brookner's acute dissection of her characters' inner lives and emotions and her unflinching honesty makes this cautionary tale a somewhat bleak and sombre read. In fact, although I am always impressed by the quality of Anita Brookner's writing and admire her perception and candour, I have to say I found this a rather dispiriting and sobering reading experience.  That said, there were parts to this story that were so sensitively rendered and so beautifully described that I find it impossible to award it less than four stars.  

4 Stars.
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on 20 May 2012
Sharply observed lives of London sisters Miriam and Beatrice - translator and musician. The passage of time leads to compromise and containment, the setting aside of vague yearnings for a different life, and - ultimately - acceptance of a degree of anxiety and loneliness. A rather sombre read.
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on 11 April 2012
She goes on a bit for sure, but I couldn't bring myself to put it down. Quite a difficult writing style to read. I'm glad I read the previous reviews as now I know what otiose means, author uses it at least three time. Read this through in two sittings. It's boringly gripping! Author excellent at describing weather atmosphere and moods. I like the cover...I thought it was going to be a ghost story. I like to listen to the shipping forecast myself and I always seem to read books that mention Henry James...10/10
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One of Anita Brookner's more depressing novels. Very introspective, and very downbeat - people dying all over the place, one almost gratuitously. But she is always difficult to put down, and I finished it quite happily. They don't make writers like her any more, sadly. I salute her though - she has brought hours of pleasure to my waning life(I'm getting in the mood!)
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on 25 March 2000
A simple fact is highlighted, that we are never content with what we have. Beatrice and Miriam are two sisters, Miriam a pianist whose engagements are diwindling fast and Beatrice who has a failed marriage behind her. Both are unable to confide in each other even though they have no one else. They lead a very quite life which neither are content with. Recommend reading it especially those who often dream of a quite life
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on 7 February 2015
The characters are very well drawn and it was hard to put down. However I personally found the detail of the depressingly empty lives of the two sisters and their gradual slide into old age very depressing. It was well written and perceptive so I have given it 4 stars even though it is not my cup of tea.
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on 13 September 2013
I couldn't put the book down, ANITA BROOKNER is an amazing writer and Falling Slowly is written with her usual insight into the lives of ordinary people,I hope she writes more as I cant wait to read her next moving and captivating ,elegant writing.
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on 20 March 2015
Exquisitely written book about a believable lady writer being taken in by an intelligent, duplicitous and uttelry selfish man - it's like watching a car crash in slow motion.
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on 29 July 2010
This is quite possibly the most boring book I have ever read. I only managed to get through it by a lot of skimming. Nothing much happens, I just could not see the point of the book at all. The only thing I have gained by reading it is that I have been introduced to the word 'otiose' which I had never encountered before. (It means -'serving no useful purpose'.) I don't really know why I persisted, I was expecting it to be good and assumed it would get better. But it didn't. Otiose it is!
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