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Leaving Home: A Novel by Anita Brookner


At twenty-six, Emma Roberts comes to the painful realization that if she is ever to become truly independent, she must leave her comfortable London flat and venture out into the wider world. This entails not only breaking free from a claustrophobic relationship with her reclusive, widowed mother but also shedding her inherited tendency toward melancholy. Emma yearns to make friends, attend parties, and have love affairs like other women, but to her these things seem forever out of reach; that is, until her college tutors find her a scholarship to study seventeenth-century garden design in Paris.

Once settled in a small Paris hotel, Emma befriends Francoise Desnoyers, a vibrant young woman who is as confident as Emma is tentative, as provocative as Emma is reserved, and as worldly as Emma is naive. On a weekend visit to Francoise's beautiful country chateau, L'Ermitage, Emma is drawn into Francoise's problematic relationship with her imperious mother, who demands that Francoise marry a rich family friend to secure their future.

For Emma, the glimpse into Francoise's turbulent life affords her a newfound and welcome respect for her own. But as she begins to date and to feel at home in her new city, Emma must make a decision: settle for a life of comfortable relationships and familiar routines, or hold out for "that evanescent hope of a good outcome which never deserts one, and which should never be abandoned." (see dust jacket)

Anita Brookner writes in a language filled of thoughtful melancholy which mirrors the character of her heroine, Emma. Written on a first person, it unravels gently the inner musings (or more like the psychological dreary analysis) of a young woman on a threshold of a life open to possibilities but her rather cautious and timid nature allays the longings of freeing herself. It is quite hard to be always torn in two. I found much affinity to the heroine as she is more attuned to the internal workings of herself rather than projecting and acting it out but she is not out of hopes and dreams either.

This is a book of acquired taste definitely, as most of the author's works have themes of sad and melancholic women, and would most likely appeal to loners (like me) but I admire how Brookner breaks down thoughts into something fragile and airy. It's like she opens a little window to how the mind churns as it contemplates one phase of life to the next, from one decision to the other whereby it remains unsure till the end. The book also explores the ideals one has of life and where one imagines it would lead, where time can only tell if one ever gets to reach it or if one just settle for what life figured out at present. Perhaps a person may end up wanting more from life and perhaps not at all, only resigned to fate.

Title: "Leaving Home"
Author: Anita Brookner
Genre: Literary, Contemporary
Published: 2007 Hardcover
Publisher: Random House
Rating: ♨♨♨  (3 cups: There's a certain lack of warmth and of heart in the story for the heroine engulfs herself in passive sadness which makes her appear cold but the lyrical prose of the author makes for a lovely reading. Don't expect for major plot lines and dramatic turns however. It is just a slow-paced reading, an articulation of a passive mind and of continuous musings.)

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