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This is classic Brookner—intense, funny, elegant and intelligent, at the center of which is Frances, a middle-aged Londoner who still lives in the apartment she inherited from her parents; she has a good job, a few friends who she keeps at a comfortable distance, no love life, and a nagging fear that she may never have more. She is a self-professed observer of life, a skill which she uses to become a successful short story writer, often writing about the more dynamic, decisive, participants of life around her. Her writing becomes her saving grace, but is also what isolates her. Brookner’s novels remind us to pay attention not just to those who seem to effortlessly command attention, but to acknowledge that everyone has a story to tell; they may be stories of loneliness, but not necessarily of sadness. I found myself wondering whether Frances’s oft unspoken admonition to “look at me” was a plea, or a dare, or both. Brookner has the rare talent for daring the reader to pity her characters, while enticing us to accept them, to admire them even, for all of their hopes and disapointments, for simply who they are.— From Jeanne's Picks