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By Anita Brookner

A lonely artwork historian absorbed in her examine seizes the chance to percentage within the joys and pleasures of the lives of a glittering couple, in simple terms to discover her hopes of companionship and happiness shattered. Reprint. 12,500 first printing.

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I got the impression that all the regulars eat early and all Alix’s friends come later, so that an evening spent in the company of Alix and Maria, and Nick, of course, is an evening unlike any other. I was dazzled, delighted. We spent a whole evening there, Maria sitting at our table and smoking, and it was all the Bohernian evenings I had ever read about. Maria is apparently rather rich, although her financial affairs are quite spectacularly complicated on account of her divorce: she and Alix devote much of their time to this problem.

But in any case Olivia is a creature of such high breeding that she would consider such a discussion to be in questionable taste. So we never say anything, although I have seen her eyes darken and her face grow paler than usual after one of these visits. There is no hope, of course. I think she saw that even before I did. She is very brave. So I struggle up the stairs with Nick’s photographs and he leans back in his chair for an instant and smiles and says, ‘Darling Fanny. What a good girl you are’, and I go downstairs again, and do something strenuous and unpleasant, like a lot of very brisk filing, until Mrs Halloran comes back from her lunch and knocks some- thing off one of the tables with her bag and the afternoon gets under way.

If my looks and my manner were of greater assistance to me I could deliver this message in person. ‘Look at me,’ I would say. ’ But since I am on my own in this matter, I must use subterfuge and guile, and with a bit of luck and good management this particular message will never be deciphered, and my reasons for delivering it in this manner remain obscure. Two These odd feelings of isolation may have something to do with my immediate environment, which is, I suppose, anachronistic. Maida Vale is a very strange neighbourhood, I always think, full of huge blocks of flats which in their turn seem to be full of small elderly people.

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