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Providence Paperback – January 13, 1994
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Kitty Maule longs to be "totally unreasonable, totally unfair, very demanding, and very beautiful." She is instead clever, reticent, self-possessed, and striking. For years. Kitty has been tactfully courting her colleague Maurice Bishop, a detached, elegant English professor. Now, running out of patience, Kitty's amorous pursuit takes her from rancorous academic committee rooms and lecture halls to French cathedrals and Parisian rooming houses, from sittings with her dress-making grandmother to seances with a grandmotherly psychic. Touching, funny, and stylistically breathtaking, Providence is a brightly polished gem of romantic comedy.
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Those readers who know the plot of `Adolphe' may expect a particular kind of end, but the parallels are far from exact. Even so, as Kitty's hopes and tensions rise towards the end of the novel, we feel desperately sorry for her, for we can sense, as she cannot, that Providence has a blow in store for her.
There is complex literary thought in this work. And in it Brookner as usual shows her intelligence and insight.
I have read many Brookner novels. This is not my favorite but like most it is a very good one.
I might add I find Brookner a writer who makes the reader want to know what will happen next. She is a master of quiet suspense.
_Providence_ has so much to say about women "of a certain age" who start questioning the choices they've made and whether they maybe should pick out a china pattern and settle down after all. It may give feminists the jitters seeing these strong female characters contemplating whether or not they do actually "need" a male in their lives, as it does somewhat beg the question as to whether a strong woman on her own should even be thinking about His 'n Hers towels, but I just adore the female characters in Brookner's books. They're a bit fusty, in some ways, and never the beauties, but they all have wonderfully developed inner lives and are generally quite secure in all ways but romantically.
If you enjoy Brooker, try Barbara Pym and Jane Gardner, as well as the above-mentioned Iris Murdoch. Just trust me!
Anita Brookner uses Benjamin Constant's "Adolphe" as a counterpoint to Kitty's restrained but passionate affair with Maurice, who does not return her love. Kitty eventually loses Maurice to one of her students, a pretty and vapid young woman, and resigns herself to disappointment in life and love. And this is typical Anita Brookner: a woman's placid existence is interrupted by people and events outside her control, pushed to a certain point of emotional crisis, before resuming its progress towards isolation, or perhaps greater realism.