'Literature for me was a magnificent destiny for which I was not yet fully prepared.'
Paul and Henrietta Manning and their solitary, academic daughter Jane have nothing in common with Dolly, widow of Henrietta's brother. Corseted and painted, Dolly is a frivolous, superficial woman, who has little time for those without that inestimable quality - charm.
Jane, in particular, falls into this category, especially after the death of her parents. But Jane has money - and a conscience - and these bind her to Dolly. Through disagreements, disappointments and disapprovals, Jane and Dolly are enmeshed in an uneasy alliance in which history and family create closer ties than friendship ever could.
Anita Brookner was born in south London in 1928, the daughter of a Polish immigrant family. She trained as an art historian, and worked at the Courtauld Institute of Art until her retirement in 1988. She published her first novel, A Start in Life, in 1981 and her twenty-fourth, Strangers, in 2009. Hotel du Lac won the 1984 Booker Prize. As well as fiction, Anita Brookner has published a number of volumes of art criticism.
Compelling . . . some classic Brookner quality stays in the mind; questions hover, polite but uncomfortable, long after the final page. * Times Literary Supplement * This small history unfolds slowly, with delicious wit or bitter pathos, and finally with a marvellous, lingering human resonance. * Sunday Express * This is vintage Brookner: all exquisite understatement, acute observation and razor-sharp dissection of motive. * Time Out * The novel is nearly as perfect an instance of its genre as it is reasonable to ask. * Frank Kermode, Spectator *