Booker Prize-winner Anita Brookner captures the magic and depth of real life with this story of an ordinary man whose unexpected longings, doubts, and fears are universal.
Paul Sturgis is resigned to his bachelorhood and the quietude of his London flat. He occasionally pays obliging visits to his nearest living relative, Helena, his cousin’s widow. To avoid having to turn down her Christmas invitation, Paul sets off for a holiday in Venice where he meets Mrs. Vicky Gardner, an intriguing woman in the midst of a divorce. Upon his return to England, a former girlfriend, Sarah, reenters Paul’s world and these two women spark a transformation in Paul, culminating in a shocking decision.
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|Title of eBook: Strangers|
|Release Date: 07-13-2010|
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Sturgis had always known that it was his destiny to die among strangers. The childhood he remembered so dolefully had been darkened by fears which maturity had done nothing to alleviate. Now, in old age, his task was to arrange matters in as seemly a manner as possible in order to spare the feelings of those strangers whose pleasant faces he encountered every morning—in the supermarket, on the bus—and whom, even now, he was anxious not to offend.
He lived alone, in a flat which had once represented the pinnacle of attainment but which now depressed him beyond measure. Hence the urge to get out into the street, among those strangers who were in a way his familiars, but not, but never, his intimates. He exchanged pleasantries with these people, but had learned, painfully, never to stray outside certain limits. The weather was a safe topic: he listened carefully to weather forecasts in order to prepare himself for a greeting of sorts should the occasion arise, while recognizing the absurd anxiety that lay behind such preparations, and perhaps aware that his very assiduity counted against him, arousing irritation, even suspicion. But codes of conduct that had applied in his youth were now obsolete. Politeness was misconstrued these days, but in any event he had never learned to accommodate indifference. Indifference if anything made him more gallant, more courteous, and the offence was thus compounded. And these were the people he relied upon to see him out of this world! Exasperation might save him, though that too must be discreetly veiled, indulged only in private. Hence the problem of finding fault with those whose job it would be to dispose of him.
He had read somewhere that S...