“We loved each other greatly, yet so exclusive was that love that it was experienced more like anguish. That feeling has has remained with me and will no doubt survive all the rest.”
Just as the title says, Leaving Home by Anita Brookner deals with the rite of passage of growing up and leaving home. Two young women, one British and one French, struggle with becoming independent but it is no easy thing for either one as they are both only daughters. Can you eschew responsibility and duty without feeling guilt? Is it not important to be true to yourself and your dreams as well?
I’m very glad I chose this as a read for my Women Unbound Challenge because I think it deals with what a lot of women feel when they are trying to balance their need and desires with their responsibilities.
Our main character, Emma, seems to be watching life pass her by just as it passes by her mother. The two women live in London and Emma watches her widowed mother live a life of solitude with books and few friends and hardly any relatives. Emma decides that if she’s to live a different sort of life, one where she has real friends and a real purpose then she must leave home and so decides to pursue a study internship in France.
In Paris she meets Françoise, a young woman who appears to be everything that Emma is not. Françoise has affairs, she is worldly and confident but still the two strike a friendship. As Emma gets to know Françoise more and meets Françoise’s mother she realizes that maybe they aren’t so different after all. Françoise’s mother is not like Emma’s mother either but in her own way she has a hold over her daughter’s life.
While Emma tries to ignore her uncle’s pointed remarks that she should be at home, she also finds that her plans of pursuing of a love affair and having her own flat are not exactly panning out as she expected. Similarly she sees Françoise trying to pursue an independent life and her plans not going exactly as she hoped.
There is one scene towards the end of the novel that I cannot tell you about because it would ruin the book but I felt so much suspense over it because I thought the book could go in any direction at that time and I was just waiting to see what Brookner would do with these characters. I love moments like that.
Perhaps this novel felt a bit more personal to me because I am an only child as well and with a widowed mother so in this case I felt like I was reading to connect. I love how Brookner explores a woman’s personal character, the good and the less than nicer points and makes them feel just geniune and with no judgement. There is no right or wrong just a process of learning and becoming.
If you are looking for high drama or fast action this probably isn’t the book for you but if you want a book that will make you feel a connection with a character then check this one out. A very good read.