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Look at Me

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Book Overview

A lonely art historian absorbed in her research seizes the opportunity to share in the joys and pleasures of the lives of a glittering couple, only to find her hopes of companionship and happiness... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Enjoyable Read

This is a story about a reserved medical library assistant who steps out of her shell by making friends with new vibrant people. She is a writer who is willing to part with her passion for storytelling for the right friends, partner. and lifestyle.

A sharp and moving novel

The novel tells in dramatic detail how Nick and Alix Fraser casually break the heart of Frances Hinton, a well-behaved and observant young woman who works in the reference library of a medical research laboratory dedicated to the study of problems of human behaviour and who longs, in her subdued way, for love. She is an orderly young woman and Spartan in her habits. If she suffers loneliness it is because she has settled for the harsh habit of dealing with all matters by herself. And soon Frances is disappointed in love. "I knew about love and its traps ... I never speak of it" and turns to writing as a form of therapy and escape, as a way to reorder her world. She writes when she feels swamped in her solitude and hidden by it, physically obscured by it and rendered invisible. Writing is her way of piping up, of reminding people that she is here. We may well guess how much of her own personality the author put in her heroine's character. An altogether convincing portrait of failed love and solitude, reminiscent of so many of Anita Brookner's protagonists.

Wonderful Insight into Human Mind

Brookner creates a fascinating window into the interior monologues of human beings, particularly women. In Fanny you can see all the ways one can mentally reformat their experiences to try and make them more tolerable. You also see how practiced one can become at forgiving instead of becoming angry, and how we may not always be paying attention to those who really love us.

A Gripping Read

Frances Hinton is lonely and bored. She leads a highly regimeted life in the home of her youth, espouses the bourgeois virtues of hard work, stability, and responsibility, and takes no emotional risks. She has few friends and no confidant. She rarely goes out and has hardly any interests or entertainments. In brief, her world is static and very circumscribed. Although she has the talent, intelligence, and financial means to alter her life, and while she wishes desperately to do so, she is paralyzed -- with indecision, with fear, with lethargy? We are not sure, and this dilemma is the crux of the book. Her supreme wish is for notice, acclaim, and love, and to this end she writes. She has published two short stories. Her tragedy is that she is an observer who wants to be observed. She discounts her natural gifts and virtues. She is not satisfied with the loyalty of her old friends but craves a different sort of friendship, an apprenticeship, with someone exciting, charismatic, careless, brutal. Equating living with agressiveness, she thinks that such a person will show her how (she actually takes notes) to seize and drain the cup of life. Frances finds her mentor in Alix, the wife of one of the physicians at the medical research library where she works. Alix is everything Frances wants to be: opinionated, brash, charming, rude, selfish, grasping, and fatally charismatic. A collector of people, constantly on the lookout for a diversion, Alix adopts an elated Frances, and gleefully abets a budding romance between her and James, another physician at the library. For a while all seems well. In Frances, Dr. Brookner has created a most intriguing and baffling character. She is deeply disturbed, but the first person narration makes it hard to tell what precisely is the matter with her. Because she appropriates blame for things that are not her fault, has low self-esteem, and is fearful when she should be angry, she might suffer from self-defeating personality disorder. It is sad that she cannot be happy with her lot, which objectively seen is a pretty nice one, and that her dissatisfaction leads her into such painful experiences. Dr. Brookner makes wonderful use of symbolism in this book. The writing is, as usual, first rate. Dr. Brookner alternates sentence length and rhythm and the whole book falls very pleasingly on the ear, a heartbreakingly plaintive wail.

Figuring Fanny Hinton

Some authors create characters so memorable that they refuse to be dislodged from our brains. These literary sailors scamper up into the rigging of our imagination and unfurl huge sails to carry us far. Such is Fanny Hinton of "Look at Me." Brookner makes the reader feel her embarrassment and anguish so deeply that, were the room in utter darkness and no one else present, one would still feel a pounding blush spread over one's face to read of it. "Look at Me" will grip you and not put you down. Unlike life itself for Fanny, it will not disappoint, for this novel's author is brilliant. She writes fiction the way a veteran cowpuncher rides the range: smoothly, with velvety confidence and her eyes fixed quietly on the certain goal ahead. Some Brookner themes are recurrent and, though effective, can become tiresome: the child of wealthy parents who, though plain in appearance, is as overwrought as a rococo clock; the tea and crumpets which are whipped out whenever anyone catches a chill or a bad case of rejection; the doddering housekeeper who aggravates but is always there in a pinch; the people who take to their beds and become professional invalids whenever the fillet of life toughens into jerkey. This book is not free of these and other fare on the standard Brookner menu. At times they can be too predictable and something of a yawn. But Fanny Hinton of "Look at Me" will remain in the reader's memory long after the more washed-out characters of lesser writers have faded into amnesic oblivion. In just about any novelistic talent show going, she can justifiably stand up tall and take her bow: though quiet as a cloud, this character is made up of one hundred percent pure electricity.

Yet another Brookner stunner

As usual, Brookner manages to infuse her writings with any number of home truths. Her insights are often jarring and usually quite easy to apply to one's own life. Though sometimes dark on the surface, Brookner would never have her characters regret too much of their experiences. Pain and consequence are a matter of fact. I have read them all and have yet to think badly of a single one!
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