Friday, December 30, 2011

Look at Me - by Anita Brookner

Frances Hinton works in a medical library, this, along with her too-big London flat are the setting for what is  a rather dull life. Frances specializes in archiving historic, pictorial material "an encyclopedia of illness and death." She goes on to say, as only a librarian would "[p]roblems of human behavior still continue to baffle us, but at least in the Library we have them properly filed." As any librarian will tell you, there are certain "library people" who come to the library all the time. Hinton suspects that some of her regular patrons come "because the Library is so very well heated." There is a lot more description of the library, and its regular users, as the book is largely a description of Frances' life. Through some of the library regulars she is able to get a sort of respite from her otherwise banal life. She begins to socialize and starts to date a man named James, but the book only scratches the surface of what she thinks of all this. She seems to be an observer to her own life, and is manipulated by her new friends. It is almost as if she is their pet, and like children who grow weary once the novelty of the pet has worn off, and they realize they have responsibilities to it, the new friends, and her beau discard her.

The library is where much of the action of the novel takes place, but I imagine the same story could probably have been told if Frances had been a waitress.

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