Stroke of light
Image Credit: Birdy
Image Credit: Birdy
It took me just about a day to finish Anita Brookner’s “Providence.” A slim volume at just about 180 pages, Providence is one of Brookner’s early novels, third to be precise. Here is a summary from The New York Times –
Like Anita Brookner's previous two novels, ''Providence'' recounts, with elegance and precision, the story of a timid woman's thwarted efforts to create a new life for herself. A lecturer in ''the Romantic Tradition'' at a small English university, Kitty Maule is one of those well-bred, perfectly mannered women who is always perfectly dressed, perhaps a little too perfectly dressed - a woman who might be called pretty, were it not for the perpetual look of disappointment she wears on her face.
This is my first Brookner novel so I didn’t know that she had a tradition of spotlighting single, lonely women in many of her works. Brookner, no doubt, writes brilliantly. Kitty spends long, languid hours in her domicile preparing for lectures and enclosed in a cloud of thought fueled by cups of coffee. These sessions are punctuated by appearances of her neighbor Caroline or the mercurial Maurice. But the sharp pinpricks of an aching loneliness are all too palpable. At one point, Kitty even consents to visit a crystal ball gazer with Caroline. Her first visit to the clairvoyant injects some resolve into her.
“As she sat in the garden of her grandparents’ house, she was aware that the time had come to say goodbye to those who had been with her on the first half of her journey, and that she must now to prepare to live a different sort of life… From now on she would be more definite, more admirable, she thought… She was saying goodbye to her very pliancy, the quality that had kept her, like her mother, a girl for far too long. And I am thirty she said to herself. I am already thirty. It is time.”
Her resolve though prompts her to go to Paris, weakens each time she comes in contact with Maurice. For inexplicable reasons she is besotted by him while he maintains a cold, detached distance. Brookner’s language splendidly shows Kitty’s longing to be accepted by Maurice as she tries to do everything possible to please him.
Brookner herself was a lonely child as she says in an old interview and a lot of her early work is based on her own feelings and experiences. Her books are known to be deterministic in character and I could see this feature in Providence too. And does Kitty get Maurice? Do read the book and find out, it’s worth it.
Verdict: A short glimpse into loneliness