Forget the meditation tapes. Forget the self-help books about simplicity. To lower your blood pressure and see life clearly and closely, read Anita Brookner's new novel. It's called "Visitors."
This is a book in which hardly anything happens - which is actually more satisfying than it sounds.In her elegant prose, Brookner sets out to describe the existence of a 70-year-old Londoner, Dorthea May. May is a widow, living on a comfortable-enough income in a small flat with a garden. (Brookner describes the sunlight in the garden.) May's husband's cousins, Kitty and Molly, take turns calling her each Sunday evening. May also exchanges a few words with the grocer several times a week. This is the extent of Dorthea May's social life.
The fact that there are so few events in her life gives her time to reflect, reflect back on a lifetime of few events. It is all quite peaceful.
Enter a young man, a houseguest. It seems Kitty has a granddaughter who is coming to London to be married. May, as a cousin-in-law, is asked to house the young fellow who will be the best man.
His name is Steve. There is nothing much happening in his life, either. He would, in fact, be willing to mooch off May indefinitely. This she will not allow.
She plans to keep a distance between them. Having a guest makes her feel awkward. Then, somehow - merely because there is another person inside her house, even for a short time - her view expands.
Writes Brookner, "She sensed that he was lonely, as lonely in his way as she was in hers, except that her loneliness was the outcome of a fiercely guarded reclusion, and all that she required to help her was a deeper sense of reverie. Young people were not given to reverie, were not particularly articulate, lacked the sort of patience that only the old could command. Seeing him moody and unoccupied made her feel sympathy for his predicament. . ."
She starts to feel maternal toward him. He is ungrateful but not unpleasant.
The wedding is held. The young people leave. May begins to dream of other lives, lives she might have lived.
Anita Brookner's story is just that simple. Told by someone else, it would not be half as compelling.