‘At twenty-six, Emma Roberts comes to the painful realization that if she is ever to become truly independent, she must leave her comfortable London flat and venture into the wider world. This entails not only breaking free from a claustrophobic relationship with her mother, but also shedding her inherited tendency toward melancholy. Once settled in a small Paris hotel, Emma befriends Francoise Desnoyers, a vibrant young woman who offers Emma a glimpse into a turbulent life so different from her own. In this exquisite new novel of self-discovery, Booker Prize-winner Anita Brookner addresses one of the great dramas of our lives: growing up and leaving home.’
I purchased Anita Brookner’s Leaving Home with my thesis in mind, without quite knowing if it was literary enough to include. Prior to this, I had only read Hotel du Lac, which I chose for a book club I was part of several years ago. Whilst I enjoyed it, I also found it a touch underwhelming. From the very beginning of Leaving Home, however, I was captivated. The narrative voice is strong, and it says a lot about interiority whilst following a single female character, Emma, who is trying to make her place in the world. Emma is rather unusual at times in her outlook; she does not permit herself to fall in love, but cultivates platonic relationships with two men.
In some ways, Leaving Home does feel rather dated; it has antiquated dialogue patterns, in which nobody seems to use any colloquialisms whatsoever. Despite this, Emma is rather realistic. She has rather a lot of freedom, and spends her time flitting back and forth from London to Paris. In the sensitively wrought Leaving Home, which is a coming-of-age novel of sorts, Brookner demonstrates what it is like to be a lonely young woman.