I thought I might share my thoughts on Incidents in the Rue Laugier by Anita Brookner. I reached for this book at a recent 2 for 1 offer at my local Shelter charity shop, (I like to spread my book purchasing largesse among the charity shops and not rely exclusively on Oxfam), as I remember reading her Hotel du Lac some years ago.
Brookner writes in an elegant, if somewhat dated, hand in that her language seems to offer the formality of another generation.
Incidents in the Rue Laugier is a framed story, the conceit being that the daughter finds among her deceased mother's belongings a notebook with but a few enigmatic French notations. From these, the daughter constructs the story of her parents' life.
Her mother, Maud, was born in a provincial French town and raised from an early age by her mother alone, her father having died prematurely. Her mother is weighed down by her lose of both husband and status, and wishes only to see her daughter suitably married.
On their annual visit to the chateau of her well-to-do aunt, Maud meets an Englishman, who is rich, handsome, witty, very much the roué, and a catch beyond the dreams of her mother. They have a brief affair - doubly daring as it against all manners to sleep with someone under the roof of a relative.
She, the Englishman and his male friend, Edward, adjourn, with her mother's consent, to an apartment in Paris. Very quickly, the Englishman tires of her. However, Edward, ever overshadowed by his companion, comes to her rescue. He has fallen in love with Maud. He guesses Maud is pregnant and offers his hand.
Edward is from Eastbourne so equally as provincial as Maud. On the back of an unexpected inheritance and wanting to be single and free of all encumbrances, he has set out on a grand adventure to travel the world. However, his courage deserts him at his first stop.
So the two return to England, to the book shop that Edward has inherited in Pimlico, both as failures, but both dependent on the other. (Maud is not, in fact, pregnant at the time; it is question of mistaken timing.)
It is an extremely, I am tempted to use the word, agreeable story, if melancholic; a sense of duty and obligation seeps from every page. However, if it has one fault, it is that it is ahistoric. Brookner provides a date for the gathering at the chateau, it is 1971, and Maud is just nineteen.
This is a revolutionary time for youth. It is the era of the Beatles, the Stones, and just three years after the student riots in Paris; events that made their effects known on every teenager no matter how distant their town of origin. To ignore them seems wilful, or simply forgetful.
The filial sense of duty and obligation, I describe, seems to me to belong to that of the immediate post-war period, and more post-WWI than WWII.
The sharp eyed among you might have spotted a new widget on my side panel. It is a wondrous gadget created by Stray to help promote Caroline Smailes' new book, Black Boxes.
To quote, it is:
based on how 'different choices can effect your path in life' theme of Carolines book Black Boxes, and we hope you'll join in by taking part, you must make a series of choices and then you will be taken to a mystery blog of another person taking part who picked similar answers to you.... who knows where your answers may lead!The old advertising person in me is much impressed.
And last but not least, I am going to the launch of Caroline's book at Borders in Oxford Street on Thursday week. I am really, really looking forward to it.
A book launch, my first. And the opportunity to meet Caroline. Can't wait.
Don't you think I look like Terry Pratchett -
without the beard ? But with the talent?
(We shall see.)