For my last blog of the year I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who visits my site, and comment. It means I’m not idly shouting into the ether. Or if I am, at least it’s yelling back occasionally. Since the Life Assistance Agency was published in September support has come from unlikely places, and from new friends. You all know who you are, so I won’t bore you with a list of names. Besides, as already discussed in the politics of the Acknowledgements – https://tomhocknell.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/how-to-write-acknowledgments/ – it’s a minefield. Here’s all the very best wishes to every reader, writer, editor and designer out there for the next year.
So, to close the year, I review of one of the favourite novels I read this year: Look at me by Anita Brookner – Penguin books. 2016
The joy of a local bookshop is its algorithms. Much like the Internet reminds you of trainers you once browsed but couldn’t afford, a bookshop knows what you read. Hence, I was recommended the 2016 reissue of Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. It’s a slim novel concerning a young woman in West London, and of the sort I would never normally read! It’s a glimpse behind curtains not of street-tough suburban streets, but of the moneyed tenement blocks of Mayfair. It’s populated with old ladies sitting lonely amongst accrued opulence, and bright thing things grasping for life’s meaning beyond having everything.
It’s a world in which charm combats time, and indeed the librarian, Frances Hinton. She is mesmerised by the charismatic Nick, who ‘seemed to be totally ignorant of the sad compromises and makeshifts, the substitutions and the fantasies, that constitute the emotional baggage of the average person.’
As she walks home past Christmas office parties, Frances struggles to equate her quiet life with that of Nick and his equally beguiling wife Alix, yet perhaps things are not as perfect as they seem. Brookner expertly lures Frances behind those historically closed doors. This genuinely timeless book is beguiling, and the perfect back pocket novel.
The Life Assistance Agency is available now and features in 2017’s WHSmith Fresh New Talent promotion. myBook.to/lifeassistance and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.