A Private View Summary
by Anita Brookner

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A Private View

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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In A PRIVATE VIEW, Brookner introduces her main character George Bland just after his closest friend has died. George is a man in his seventies, unmarried, without any family or surviving friends. Bland and his late friend had planned for all their lives to retire together and travel the world. Now George is alone and unable to find any meaning in his life. In his youth he had thrown himself completely into his work and never questioned the reason for his existence, but now with money and time to spare, George is a lost, lonely man.

Katy Gibb, a mysterious young woman, changes his life by moving in next door and suggesting for George possibilities of escape from his old life which he begins to see as dull and wasted. He sees that all that time went by unnoticed and unenjoyed until now. Katy is a spirited American with a clear agenda: She needs financial support for her business projects in New Age medicine and sees George as a possible wealthy patron. He is aware of Katy’s schemes but is intrigued by her ability to be at times a seductive woman and at other times a sulky young girl. He is attracted by the unpredictability and the inappropriateness of his tentative relationship with her.

Interaction with Katy steeps George in inner turmoil and ultimately leads to a better understanding of himself and his own self-deceptions that he was unaware of until now. The novel concludes with a surprisingly satisfactory resolution of George’s life. This ending is surprising because Brookner builds a kind of suspenseful tension in the future of George’s relations with Katy and leads readers to anticipate a tragic end for George. Instead of falling into despair, George learns to accept and improve the small pleasures in his quiet life using his newfound understanding of himself.

Brookner demonstrates her skill as a storyteller in this novel. She can tell George’s poignant story with out making him seem either a hero undergoing dramatic change or a pathetic man with a ruined life. He is ordinary and likable. Brookner’s piercing vision makes ordinary lives seem fascinating and full of meaning. She focuses acute attention on every detail and lends significance to every movement or thought of her characters.