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Strangers: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 16, 2009

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brookner's 24th book is an often monotonous meditation on an elderly man's solitary existence. Much of the first several chapters are dedicated to 72-year-old Paul Sturgis's stuffy reflections on his attitudes toward life and loneliness. The narrative shows some promise when Sturgis meets recently divorced Vicky Gardner on a trip to Venice, but their ensuing relationship—in Venice and later, when they both return to London—is mired in a painfully polite restraint. As if in a parody of English manners, Vicky and Sturgis labor over countless afternoon teas without forming anything resembling human contact. Vicky often approaches moments of vulnerable honesty, only to act appalled if he shows any interest in these rare glimpses of humanity. Sturgis's interactions with his ex-lover Sarah, meanwhile, are slightly more candid, but these merely highlight Sturgis's painfully apparent dull formality. (They also give him more material to pontificate over.) While the novel happens in the current day, the occasional mobile phone feels as out of place as it would in, say, one of the Henry James novels that could be the inspiration for this tedious exercise in drawing-room politesse. (June)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

In her 24th novel, Anita Brookner "examines what it means to be in the twilight of one's life" (Telegraph). As in most of her books, the action in Strangers takes place just below the surface of everyday life, consisting mainly of Paul's memories, observations, and reflections. Its small scope and damaged, lonely protagonist -- an "especially convincing" (Washington Post) male character -- make this novel classic Brookner. Despite its grim subject matter -- old age and the looming prospect of death -- Brookner infuses her writing with humor and hope. Though the Los Angeles Times suggested that Brookner might be losing her literary edge, most readers will delight in this sensitive, introspective journey into the sunset years.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition first Printing edition (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068340
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #473,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 23, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
Anita Brookner's protagonists invariably take long walks to exhaust themselves and suppress their unwanted emotions. They're more comfortable with books and paintings than with social interaction. And they engage in an endless flow of torturous introspection. In this book Brookner remains true to form.

Paul Sturgis is a 72-year-old retired investment advisor. Despite his tall good looks, solid finances and courteous demeanor, he is very much alone in life.

Niceness has somehow condemned him to a lifetime of loneliness. Friendship is too much to hope for, but he attempts to contrive a meaningful connection of some sort with three women: a distant relative by marriage, a former lover who is mysteriously ill - and a rootless and probably predatory woman met in Venice.

He rationalizes why it might be beneficial to relate more definitely with one of these women, all of whom are alarming or disappointing in different ways. The dismayed reader stays on board with the unhappy and indecisive hero, held fast by Brookner's seductively beautiful prose.

Brookner's genius for capturing the poetry of loneliness is unsurpassed in the literary world. If you don't mind a somewhat depressing story line, her exquisite style gives pleasure always. STRANGERS, in any case, holds out a tiny hope that things may be looking up.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on June 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is no getting around it, this is a novel about old age and loneliness. Like all Brookner's novels, the hero/ine is solitary, well off, and given to melancholy mental soliloquies. As always, the protagonist's choice of company is unsatisfactory, the few elderly people who have sparsely peopled his past and who are egotistical, selfish and argumentative, or a 50-ish woman who loudly presents claims and demands, amply self justified, of course. So the alternatives are unfulfilling company and the demands that company makes, or isolation and solitary cogitation, indeed fear of dying alone. Brookner skillfully juxtaposes pages of inner thoughts and anxieties, long spun-out indecision, with rapid fire confrontational dialogue as the protagonist tries ineffectively to placate acquaintances who reject his politeness and counter with forthright rudeness and renewed demands. This is a longtime Brookner theme: the quiet, peaceable and well-behaved are at the mercy of charming, gregarious users, out to exploit the quiet householder, turn him out of his or her house in the guise of a short term arrangement, and extract financial advantage from the protagonist's innocent friendship. Though every novel is a variation on this theme, there is no sense of repetition. Miss Brookner's novels are each distinct, each a quiet universe of feeling, with naifs and monsters vying unequally in an indifferent London. Always there is London, bleak, chill, raining, even springtime a disappointment. The protagonist's London is always contrasted with Paris or southern France where he seeks the warm deliverance of the sun. Somehow I never find these novels depressing. Miss Brookner is master of her constricted landscape, but her bleak worldview is not for everyone.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on July 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This rather short, fortunately so, novel is a seemingly endless monologue/rumination, on the part of seventy-something Paul Sturgis, a Londoner, on a life of solitude and loneliness. Despite its unrelenting dreariness, the book is not without its insights on both personal psychological inadequacies and the sometimes trying nature of social interactions, especially for the aged.

Sturgis may have escaped his miserable childhood in a lifeless household populated by parents completely unsuited for each other, but at the cost of being tone-deaf concerning social behavior. His social overreactions usually manifested in obsessive kindness, attentiveness, and desire to understand other's "inner" selves invariably become an irritant to women friends and lovers. Moreover, he cannot adjust to what he perceives to be their sense of entitlement, neediness, and breeziness, though he is not without admiration of their seeming strength.

Paul cannot be dismissed as a complete social misfit. He is not wrong to perceive pervasive social indifference, which he, on a daily basis, runs afoul of when he seeks to ingratiate himself with too much detail in brief encounters. It is also the basis of his fears of dying in a public venue among "strangers." He does march on without engaging in spells of self-pity. And he is hardly alone. The wife of his deceased cousin Helena regales Paul with her expansive social life when he visits on Sunday afternoons. Upon her death, he discovers that it was all a façade: she too was friendless.

He does fantasize about escaping his unhappy life. Dreams of a romanticized past or taking long walks had more or less worked for years.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have read a number of Anita Brookner's novels and find this one of the best. Its focus on the thoughts and situation of the protagonist make the work read almost like a solitary meditation. The dialogues between Paul Sturgis and the three women he somehow searches for meaningful encounter with do not bring him what he desires. His great sin in life according to the old flame who had rejected him and who he meets again in her crippled old age is that he was too nice. He was considerate , a gentleman and therefore boring. In his encounter with another woman he takes interest in, a divorcee he is charmed by her forthright selfishness- but ultimately disturbed by her total lack of interest with him.
This book has a hero who longs to have many things most of us take for granted. His ambitions in once sense at this stage of his life seem so small. As a person who has always been responsible, done his duty as he does his duty to the cousin, Helena, who he for years had once - weekly not very intimate meetings with. He hopes for the kindness of strangers, and takes satisfaction in small encounters of life. Just being out in the street can give him great pleasure. A walk gives him so much.
His minimum of expectations, his reduced expectations with age make him a kind of sympathetic figure. He asks so little of life and others and yet does not get it. He is willing to do more for others than they can do for him.
In his situation and through his story Brookner reveals hard and perhaps universal truths about our human situation.
If the main character is not one we can have tremendously strong feeling about , his situation and thoughts nonetheless hold up a mirror to our own human limitations. They too show how even in the smallest perceptions and experiences that can be a kind of aesthetic pleasure and meaning.
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