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Visitors: A Novel Hardcover – December 29, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (December 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679457852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679457855
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,266,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Dorothea May is a typical Brookner heroine, a not atypical comment in a review of Brookner's works, for Brookner is nothing if not consistent in delivering a certain kind of novel: finely crafted portraits of lives that aren't exactly blighted but are constrained and gray. Mrs. May has lived alone since the death of her beloved husband, whom she married rather late in life, and if she regrets not having children, she keeps her feelings well under control. Then her husband's cousin asks her to put up a young man arriving in town for the wedding of the cousin's granddaughter?a big, spoiled girl from America who has flown in casually with her crusading Christian husband-to-be and doesn't appreciate the fuss. When her unwanted guest arrives, Mrs. May tries to make it clear that he is hardly welcome but is somehow charmed by his insouciance. This would not be a true Brookner novel if Steve were a whirlwind sweeping Mrs. May into his grip, and he's not; he's a rather affectless young man, but his presence subtly changes Mrs. May, making her feel that she is "now being called to account" and ruining years of carefully constructed habit. The result is a charming, incisive little novel that won't sweep readers off their feet, either, but will make them rethink how locked into habit we all become. For most collections.
-?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

Ms. Brookner's latest novel follows what has become virtually a formula for this author. A loner leading a life of boring routine is jolted out of the rut by an unexpected force. The loner in this instance is a widow whose contact with the human race has been reduced to her late husband's female cousins and their spouses. These people are all seventy or so; they have nothing to worry about but their health, and nothing to do but decide where to spend the August holidays. When an American-raised granddaughter insists that she be married in England, the poor old coots react as though the sky had fallen on them. That the American invasion does them all good comes as no surprise. A touch of salvation is part of the formula.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "mgerald" on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the reclusive and sensitive Mrs. May, Anita Brookner has created a character of utterly memorable proportions. Though no one is allowed behind the high walls of her inner world, the reader is invited to spend a week there: the impressions of this experience stick. Brookner's prose is flat but fertile, a golden plain that rustles in the breeze and is ripe for harvest. And other characters frequent these pages: the young as viewed from the treetops of age; the old and their shifting grasp on life; the dead exhumed and examined in the light. And all cry out to be heard, some with a genteel wave of the hand, others with self-satisified, irritated shouts. To know Mrs. May, one must begin to think the way she does, and perhaps this is the real brilliance of this novel: one is given a roadmap to her mind and urged to use it. It is difficult to believe that the "visitors" themselves could be as oafish as they are; this novel is also a meditation on the smiling thoughtlessness of youth. Age, too, must undergo rigorous cross-examination in the courtroom of this book, and the testimony given makes fascinating reading. Brookner is so smooth, so pleasant to imbibe, that one forgets she is a complex and sophisticated drink. Don't let the readability of "Visitors" fool you; this novel is fun, but hardly kidstuff.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
In an age when most novels deal with issues in the heavy handed rhetoric of psychotherapy, it is a joy to see Brookner filter her observations with such subtelty and taste. And when most editors mandate that their authors "dramatize" every scene with clunky dialogue (as if we were children and could not get the message any other way!), I found it a meditative pleasure to read a novel so deeply steeped in a character's inner life. Yet, when dialogue appears, it is flawless.
Brookner is a supremely subtle writer. For example, many of Thea's differences with her husband's cousins are due to the fact that she is a gentile who married into a close-knit family of Jews. Yet, the word "Jew" never apears once. She manages to handle the issue delicately, without offending anyone, grinding an axe or drawing too much attention it.
It was an enlightening change to see life through the eyes of a seventy-year old, and unlike some of Brookner's novels, this book had a gently upbeat ending.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lev Raphael on August 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
An editor of mine once said to me that he didn't think a wholelot happened in an Anita Brookner novel. "It's like somebody takes a painting off the wall and contemplates the patch of wallpaper that hasn't faded. That's the book."
He was right--and he was very wrong.
Lives in Brookner's novels almost always follow the same arc as that wallpaper--from bright possibility to faded reality, and her characters are struck by the contrast of hopeful past and dim present. That is, the characters she most sympathizes with. Because in Brookner's world, there are the quiet, compliant, resigned types (who sometimes long to be bolder), and then there are brash heedless people who like FitzGerald's Daisy and Tom Buchanan smash things and people because they don't care what others think.
The painful and sometimes humiliating interaction of these two types is the source of the drama. Brookner's often compared to Henry James, and like James, she posits that adventures of consciousness, travels of the mind and heart, are as strange and threatening as any other trips we might make.
Brookner's newest novel, her seventeenth, is a gloriously moving example of her insight into this paradox, written as always in witty and crystalline prose, and with her usual poetic psychological precision.
Dorothea May grew up very quietly in a London suburb, and it shaped her values: "One ate plain food, was careful not to give offence, and stayed at home until one married." This outwardly sedate spinster's life--in which trips to Europe were as uneventful as trips to the library--was interrupted by an accidental meeting that lead to a happy fifteen-year marriage. But when her husband Henry died, Dorothea slipped back into the silence and virtual isolation she had been so accustomed to.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my first experience of Anita Brookner and it won't be my last! Her writing is exquisitely beautiful and compelling, revealing emotional states with precision and depth. What could easily have been a totally depressing story, in Brookner's hands, is almost transcendent. This is a truly wonderful book. I couldn't put it down.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Librarian on February 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
While "Visitors" doesn't rank with the incomparable "Hotel du Lac", it still reverberates with Brookner's wonderfully careful prose and scrupulously examined characters.
Little occurs in the way of plot. In the world of Dorothea May and her husband's cousins, the carefully measured world of sheltered people over the age of seventy, the simplest change in their lives is the stuff of high drama. When Cousin Kitty asks Dorothea to take in the friend of her American granddaughter for a week, Dorothea is severely shaken. The simple act of having a border, and an unobtrusive one at that, is enough to make Dorothea examine her past and current life and decide that some changes are in order.
And yet the changes are infintesimal, small enough to be laughable in less capable hands. But, as usual, Brookner handles them masterfully. This novel contains mostly interior reflection and sometimes seems repetitive, even contradictory And yes, Brookner fans will recognize another aging, lonely, unfulfilled character. But her words never fail her and Brookner readers will not be disappointed.
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