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on 24 May 2005
This book will be enjoyable to Brookner fans as it contains many of her trademark features, long walks, empty Sundays, coffee, a healthy income(although not at the beginning of the book, it does come later)visits to Selfridges Food Hall and a French connection. Most of all it has long paragraphs of prose which engulf the reader into Brookner-land where many of us would like to live permanently. The story starts out carefully, introducing Emma and her plans to escape to France to persue her studies on a very tight budget. She leaves behind her sparse family, and lives as something of an outsider, befriending an outgoing French girl into whose family she becomes embroiled.As the book progresses, Emma gradually grows into independence and accepts herself and her situation.
Anita Brookner is a novelist who takes a small canvas and paints her story with precision. This book is unlikely to be of interest to those who like fast moving or adventurous plots, but will please readers who like to find out all the details of the characters and to savour rich and well constructed prose.
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on 17 December 2005
Anita Brookner is one of the few authors I know who use librarians as major characters. Perhaps that is why I kept comparing Leaving Home, featuring the ebullient librarian Francoise Desnoyers, with the early offering Look At Me, with its bewildered narrator, librarian Frances (Fanny) Hinton.
Emma Roberts, the narrator of Leaving Home, and Frances Hinton, start from the same circumstances, a cloistral relationship with a dependant widowed mother, and consequent desire to batten onto a stronger personality in order to begin to experience life: "It was therefore somehow appropriate [. . .] that I should attach myself to a surrogate whom I saw as capable as acting as a mentor." (Leaving Home, p. 6). In Emma's case the surrogate is Francoise, a breezy, willful and outspoken Frenchwoman whose overly close relationship to her domineering mother parallels Emma's own. Frances is drawn to the equally charismatic Nick and Alix. Initially, the passive, dependant Emma threatens to retrace Frances' footsteps. When the character of Michael was introduced, I smugly assumed I knew right where the plot was headed. I happily admit I was wrong.
In the twenty years separating the two novels, the narrator's worldview has taken an upturn. While the retiring Frances cannot confront or influence the unequal relationships in her life and capitualtes to stronger wills than hers, Emma mangages to take comparatively forthright and decisive action with her friends and lovers. It is Frances' tragedy that she does not realize, as Emma does, "It was even possible that others might not have my best interests at heart, might prove as intent on their own destiny as I had thought to be on mine." (Leaving Home, p. 116)
Leaving Home is also one of the few novels by Dr. Brookner I can recall where the protagonist shows a religious sensibility. Emma's refreshment in Saint-Sulpice stands in contrast with the horrifying visit to Saint Denis by Kitty Maule in Providence.
(I just noticed that many of Dr. Brookner's heroines (Kitty, Julia, Fanny, Emma) share first names with those of Jane Austen!)
This is a beautifully written novel, full of substance. It rewards careful reading.
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on 4 December 2000
Garrison Keillor write about universal themes and people. More than that though he imbues them with a warmth and affection that is rare in an age where objectivity is the norm.
The people are universal because you realise as you read that you know them, they are the people that you too grew up with. Their character, their strengths, their flaws are all recognisable. These are three dimensional people that you too want to live beside.
When the author uses an old joke on which to hang a story you forgive him. The setting in which he places it, the craft with which he wraps it up just make the old chestnut that much more enjoyable.
When he talks about someone telling a joke, too racked with the humour of it to finish the joke for laughing - well, we've all smiled at someone doing that... haven't we?
Those critics who raved about Lake Wobegon Days had a point but Keillor saved the better work, the greater warmth, for the stories in this collection.
Read them with delight and smile with regret as you reach the last page.
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on 14 July 2005
Emma, a submissive and uncertain "good daughter" living with her frail mother in their London flat is contrasted against a dominant and impulsive French friend, Francoise, also with mother difficulties. By the end, it is Francoise who is resigned to submit to her mother's wishes and Emma who begins to take control of her life when the alternatives seem too much to bear. The catalyst in both cases is loss and the necessities that it creates. Left to our own initiative, such changes are rarely accomplished. Brookner's territory in this novel is the intimate dance between order and passion as it manifests in history, garden design, the relations between people, and in the internal, even subliminal, struggles between mind and heart. It is our demand for a guiding principle to interpret and wrestle with the uncertainties of life that seems to give rise in each of us either to a striving for order as a symbol of safety or for the following of our passions as a symbol of freedom. In the end, we each could do with more of what we are not. This is some of Brookner's most succinct, yet fully satisfying writing to date.
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on 1 August 2007
Having read some of Garrison Keillor's other stuff because of this one, this is still by far my favourite. These are such humane and affectionate stories about the sort of people we really are, no pretensions, but honesty and empathy. Plenty of laughs because it could happen to someone you know! A proper feelgood book. One you will want to lend to anyone who's your friend - be prepared not to get it back though. . .
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on 4 September 2001
Garrison shares with us his own childhood town, disguised by a thin veil of satire that leaves the natural, easy humour of true life exposed.
Many times I have read these stories to friends. At first, they are skeptical, after all, who reads out loud? With these tales, you will read them out loud even when you are alone. I have never heard his voice in real life, but Keillor's voice rings loud and clear (or actually soft and dusky) in my ears as I read these tales.
A great read for anyone, especially those who take the people they grew up with with a grain of salt.
A top read.
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on 3 September 2012
This is an amusing book, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It helps to have heard Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon series on radio as his deadpan drawl is very much a feature of his narrative. More a book to dip into than to read at a sitting as it is a series of short stories with no plot development: slices of life in a fictional mid west town. Not for those who like to get to grips with an unfolding story, but delightfully entertaining nevertheless.
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on 27 January 2017
Excellent condition hardback. Good value.
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on 22 February 2013
This is a lovely book & I had purchased a copy some years ago. I bought this copy as a gift for an elderly member of the clergy & it arrived with a disfiguring ink mark that makes it inappropriate as a gift. I have yet to resolve this issue with the supplier.
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on 16 September 2015
It is a while since I read a Brookner and was really disappointed with this novel. I found it really heavy going and lacking in purpose.
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