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Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
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A-LeavingHomeEmma Roberts is in thrall to the cloistered world of her widowed mother. At 26 she wrests herself from her family home in London to study classical garden design in Paris. Of course, Paris being Paris, she’s also got a nose for love. What the meek Emma finds is Françoise, a new friend with maternal issues of her own and a heavy dose of that willful Gallic je ne sais quoi. When Emma is forced to return to London, she finds herself torn not only between two cities but also between the comfort of her mother’s isolation and the vibrancy of the City of Light.
Random House. 242 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1400064147

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"The delicacy and nuance of Brookner’s phrasing, the tension between and among the characters, the evanescent limning of Emma—the pieces of Leaving Home render a whole of immeasurable sadness, a tale not so much of loss as of the inability to grasp life in order to experience loss." Victoria A. Brownwith

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[Emma] joins her spiritual kin, other Brookner females, as yet another cautious observer, a woman unsure she wants to jump into life’s messy melee even as she despairs of missing out on its joys. … And even as [Emma and Françoise] struggle, the novel moves forward at a truly Brooknerian pace: deliberate, ordered, and unrushed—not unlike a dark yet ever stately minuet." Marjorie Kehe

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Brookner … writes an intelligently crafted story here, and one that succeeds in examining the motivations of Emma and her collision with her apparent opposite, Françoise. Yet it is a bleak tale, and one vastly different from the outcomes often seen in American fiction geared more toward unrealistic self reinvention." Jessie Milligan

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Nothing can explain the attraction of this almost plotless novel except the extraordinary precision of Brookner’s analysis—her ability, again and again, to capture our common but private anxieties in a painful demonstration of self-reliance. … It’s a wonder to expose them with such cutting clarity." Ron Charles

Newsday 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Even her fans must acknowledge that her latest study in insecurity and the absence of love treads familiar turf with perhaps less success. Yes, it offers Brookner’s quiet theater of cruelty as well as some scenes of surpassing strangeness, but other moments are too divorced from reality, even for those inured to Brookner’s vagueness about little matters like jobs or money." Kerry Fried

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"For years, I have enjoyed Anita Brookner’s novels, those dense, internal character portraits of quiet, mostly well-off British people who lead largely introspective lives. … With this installment, the perfume of Brookner, while still unique, is becoming a little stale." Michele Ross

NY Times Book Review 1.5 of 5 Stars
"Now a musty smell wafts from each new Brookner book, a stale whiff that arises partly because she has tweaked the same novel 23 times in 24 years, and largely because her shrinking-violet heroines live in a hermetic, increasingly unconvincing world." Caryn James

Critical Summary

It’s more of the same for Anita Brookner’s 23rd novel. The Baltimore Sun calls the Booker Prize winner (for Hotel du Lac [1984]) "an acquired taste, like espresso or olives," an opinion that, for better or worse, carries through the bulk of reviews for Leaving Home. While some critics hail her new novel as another dose of the author’s trademark psychological acuity, others are tired of a style that reads more like a cliché. Comparisons to Henry James, Jane Austen, and Edith Wharton abound, as if Brookner’s modern characters would fit a century earlier. But where Austen, James, and Wharton wrote voluminous prose, Brookner is still every bit the cool minimalist. Recently reviewed: Making Things Better ( 3.5 of 5 Stars May/June 2003) and The Rules of Engagement ( 3 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2004).

Also by the Author

Hotel du Lac (1984): Romance writer Edith Hope has been sent—banished, really—to this Swedish hotel by her friend Penelope. Over the course of the story, we find out what wrongs Edith committed, how she feels about her work, her reaction to a proposal of marriage from a man she doesn’t love, and tales of the other guests.