Friday, March 09, 2007

Anita Brookner's Fraud

I've read at least two other Anita Brookner novels, A Friend in England and Hotel Du Lac come to mind, so I had a good idea of what to expect from Fraud. And since I didn't really have a good experience with either of the previous novels, I almost passed this one by, and would have but for the fact that Brookner has her fans and that they speak so highly of this novel that I had to satisfy my curiosity about it.

That Anita Brookner is a talented writer is beyond question. She creates a world and characters that, depressing as they may be, are believable, if not always sympathetic. Fraud is no exception. Anna Durrant, on whom the book centers, is a woman who has devoted her entire life to taking care of her semi-invalid mother. Despite her university degree, Anna is content to sacrifice any career aspirations or private life that she may ever have had in order to better care for her mother. It is when her mother finally dies that Anna realizes how empty her life really is and she seeks a substitute to whom she can devote her care. Unfortunately for both of them, the woman chosen to receive her attention neither likes Anna Durrant nor really appreciates the extra attention and the relationship turns into a burden for both women.

The book begins with Anna's disappearance and the police inquiry that involves the few acquaintances who might have some idea as to what has happened to her. From that point, the novel flashes back to the months preceding the disappearance and the reader learns just how sterile a life Anna has lived in service to her mother. Alternating chapters tell Anna's story through her own eyes, through the eyes of her mother's friend, Mrs. Marsh, and through the eyes of her mother's doctor, the only man for whom Anna ever really cared.

Anna finally comes to the conclusion that she is indeed a fraud and that her entire life has been based on the expectations and perceptions of others. The problem for me as a reader is that I was almost as depressed with the novel by the time that I finished it as Anna was depressed with her life. For me at least, a Brookner novel demands a certain amount of concentration, an effort I'm willing to give in expectation that the experience will have been worth that effort. That is perhaps why I found the book's ending to be so abrupt and disappointing. I've come to the conclusion that I don't enjoy entering the world in which Anita Brookner places her female characters and that I'm unlikely to enter that world again soon.

Rated at: 3.0


  1. Disappointing. From the way you describe it, it had potential to be a dark comedy. Sounds like the humour was missing.

  2. I don't think that Brookner really aims for dark comedy, John. She has a certain consistent vision of what life is like for women of a certain type and she works that theme with some consistency. I don't enjoy her books but she is a favorite of the critics and has her fans. It's difficult for me to explain what it is that discourages me to read more of her work. It's not just the depressing nature of her theme because I very much enjoy the work of Joyce Carol Oates who works, on a regular basis, what could be a much more depressing theme.