Review: Fraud by Anita Brookner
Author: Anita Brookner
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: January 13th, 1994
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries
Source: Personal Copy
After Anna Durrant, a financially independant middle-aged recluse, misses several doctor's appointments, Dr. Lawrence Halliday reports her missing to the British authorities. The subsequent investigation reveals the characters that constitute her small social circle. Through the memories and interior reflections of three main acquaintances, the life of Anna is revealed along with the various social frauds perpetrated by those around her.
First off, this isn't a mystery in the traditional sense. After the first 50 pages or so, I felt a little duped, since the cover copy implied more of a noir detective story. I am glad that I kept on reading though, as Anita Brookner's writing was exquisite, even though the plot was slightly lacking and the pacing was quite slow. Fraud revealed itself more as a commentary on the internal struggles that people, especially women, live with constantly and the way they choose to portray themselves within society. Much of the novel's emphasis focused on people's presentation of themselves to others, particularly during an initial meeting. How much of ourselves do we reveal? Does what we portray truly represent who we are inside? These are just some of the questions that Brookner asks throughout the story.
For the most part, the characters were quite depressing and at times hopeless, making them that much more believable. Anna has squandered her youth, education, and career by letting her mentally unstable mother dictate her life. Then there is Mrs. Marsh, a fierce and stubborn woman of about eighty, whose outlook on society, specifically that of the women in her life, focuses more on the necessity of marriage to the achievement of happiness.
It pleased her to think of Amy Durrant as a victim, for were not all women victims, saved from their fate only by marriage to a good man?However, none of these characters are entirely blameless for their situations. Choices are made, and the consequences are revealed. Brookner never paints any saints or martyrs, but reminds the reader of the fallible humanity of this group of people.
Since this was my first Brookner novel, I didn't quite understand if she truly believed the gender stereotypes she propagated in the story or if they were an element of her satire. I lean towards the latter explanation, but that question kept nagging at me for most of the book. However, Fraud does an excellent job of conveying how hard it is to truly understand and relate to other people. Overall, the novel reveals the loneliness and despair we all feel at some point or another, yet keeps an optimistic undertone that it is not too late to embrace who we are and overcome the perceptions of society.