Review: Fraud by Anita Brookner

Title: Fraud
Author: Anita Brookner
Pages: 262
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.

Rating: 3/5


  1. This review is much different from what I got out of the synopsis that goodreads provides. It sounds interesting--especially the gender issues. I'm not familiar with Brookner, and will probably pick this up just to explore some of these issues further. I'm especially looking forward to the review of the novel you're reading now!

  2. Beth - The only thing I knew about Brookner before reading this was that she had won the Booker Prize for Hotel Du Lac. Seems like she focus a lot on the isolation/loneliness of intellectual women. I'm definitely interested in reading some more of her work to see if it lines up with Fraud in terms of the exploration of women's issues.

  3. I tried reading Hotel Du Lac and couldn't get into it. Perhaps it's just not for me. I may try again and this title certainly looks appealing.

  4. From the sounds of it, Brookner isn't the best in terms of creating a moving/engaging plot. It took me a while to appreciate the message she was trying to convey because I couldn't really get into the slower paced story.

  5. Certainly one of the slowest paced novels I've ever read. If there are people who spend their lives doing nearly nothing I haven't met them. One character remembers her period of engagement to the the man who became her husband by recalling how nice it was to have plenty to do. Imagine thinking back to a transient period as the most diverting. What a strange book. I am trying to read all the women authors of this period. If these characters are supposed to be intellectual one doesn't get a hint of what they are reading. There is one trip to a museum and the characters appraisal of Ingres is so limited. I have heard there are prople who can live a long life, have things happen to them but at the end they are no more interesting, less naive, etc.


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