Leaving Home is Anita Brookner’s twenty-third novel in as many years. Her annual book is an event of sorts in the publishing year, with reviewers berating her for producing the same uncompromisingly bleak novel, slightly altered, year in, year out. By resolutely ignoring her critics, the author displays the same qualities of quiet persistence and stubborn independence in the practice of her art that are celebrated, in muted fashion, in her fiction. You feel she is writing primarily to please herself, and for a loyal readership that must strongly identify with her famously solitary and self-absorbed heroines. These supposedly middle-class, middle-brow, female readers of a certain age and delicate sensibilities would be dismayed if they did not get their elegantly written annual fix of lonely, disappointed women (and occasionally men) facing the stark realities of ageing and the passage of time, without being cushioned by the usual human comforts of family, friendship, sex, religion, or work.
Themes instantly familiar to Brookner devotees – the relationship between mother and daughter, social isolation, disillusionment with romantic love, protagonists torn between two countries and cultures – are all here. Emma Roberts leaves home (‘the great drama of our lives’) in London, ostensibly to study