- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Academy Chicago Pub (February 1, 1984)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0586055053
- ISBN-13: 978-0586055052
- Package Dimensions: 6.9 x 4 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,790,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Start in Life Paperback – February 1, 1984
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Excellent * Sunday Times * Enormously sophisticated, knowing, often very funny tragi-comedy * Financial Times * How can anything be so funny and so sad both at once? Every sentence is an object lesson in compression and wit. -- Tessa Hadley * Guardian Summer Reads, 2015 * A delight, amusing, beautifully written. * The Times * Enormously sophisticated, knowing, often very funny tragi-comedy. * Financial Times * Excellent, brilliantly drawn. * Sunday Times * --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Anita Brookner was born in south London in 1928, the daughter of a Polish immigrant family. She trained as an art historian, and worked at the Courtauld Institute of Art until her retirement in 1988. She published her first novel, A Start in Life, in 1981 and her twenty-fourth, Strangers, in 2009. Hotel du Lac won the 1984 Booker Prize. As well as fiction, Anita Brookner has published a number of volumes of art criticism. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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Mike Cullen flirts with danger, takes to bed as many ladies as he can manage, tries to make a quick pound in every way possible, falls in love, makes friends, engages in philosophical conversations and fistfights - he is bursting with life and certainly is not afraid of living.
Since then that jaunty working class hero was always on my mind, urging me not to be a sissy and add an extra spice to life. My bookish side was captured by Thornton Wilder's Theophil Nort but every time I was in for a trick or two it was Mike Cullen stirring in me.
Now I am 33 and these two decades were not as eventful as I hoped - but is that not the case with all of us?
Anyway, when the gloom and depression lurk nearby I open that book, read, smile and hope for a new start.
Monsieur Pierrotin drives a ramshackle stagecoach between Paris and Presle, a nondescript village about twenty miles away from the French capital. Presle is too small for the main post chair service so Pierrotin has a monopoly on a road no one else wants. His cart holds four people comfortably, but he usually squeezes nine passengers and sometimes ten. The passengers include Georges Marais, a handsome charmer who entertains himself by getting the innocent in trouble, and Oscar Husson, an innocent but frustrated youth. Next to them sits a count travelling incognito to check how his steward is managing his estate, and it is the steward who has invited Oscar to spend a few weeks on his master's estate.
Despite his mother's warning to avoid gossiping with his fellow passengers, Marais goads Oscar into revealing things about his host, who happens to be the steward the count is going to meet.
For once in a nineteenth century novel the coincidence is not outlandish. People unknown to each other but travelling to an obscure destination will likely have some connection to each other without realizing it.
The count arrives on his estate, confirms his steward was putting his personal interests ahead of his master's, but would have forgiven him had it not been for Oscar's gossip including revelations about the count's beloved wife.
This is Oscar's start in life: the loss of a protector through is own fault. His mother calls upon her former brother-in-law and Oscar's paternal uncle to take the boy under his protection. His uncle finds Oscar a clerkship in a law office. Oscar does very well for two years but on the day he is promoted to Second Clerc, he meets George Marais again, and again gets in trouble, and again finds himself without a situation and without a protector.
After a few more adventures, a wiser Oscar ends up where we first met him, in Monsieur Pierrotin's stagecoach. He's on his way to Presle, having repaid his debt of honour to the count, with interest.
A standard but interesting coming-of-age novel from Balzac's Comédie Humaine cycle.
Vincent Poirier, Montreal
And so the author retraces Ruth's youth and her inability to engage in a durable relationship with a man. In this sense Ruth strongly feels that she resembles the main character in Balzac's "Eugénie Grandet" because Eugénie was always uncomfortable with hopeless love. Ruth often thinks of Eugénie's reflection in the novel: "Je ne suis pas assez belle pour lui" and "Je suis trop laide, il ne fera pas attention à moi". Who is to blame for her loveless life? Her parents Helen and George who always required her attention? Her own indecisive character? The men she met in her life? When one reaches the end of the novel, one realises that Ruth's loveless life is due to a series of reasons which seem to engulf her despite her own will, or rather that her own will is too weak to offer any kind of resistance to the demands of life and of other people.
A delicate and sophisticated first novel which marked the beginning of a great literary career.