‘The Place Blanche, Paris. Life itself. One realized all sorts of things. The value of an illusion, for instance, and that the shadow can be more important than the substance. All sorts of things.’

– Jean Rhys, Quartet

‘She felt that her marriage, though risky, had been a success. And that was that. Her life swayed regularly, even monotonously, between two extremes, avoiding the soul-destroying middle. Sometimes they had a good deal of money and immediately spent it. Sometimes they had almost none at all and then they would skip a meal and drink iced white wine on their balcony instead.’

– Jean Rhys, Quartet

“At first we had hearts as big as the world, and now they are as big as this stone.”

– Filumena in Marriage Italian Style, 1964

‘Sometimes I see, sometimes I hear, forgotten episodes from my real life, and I always try very hard to invent a new life for myself so that I can get away from the old one, although to all intents and purposes that old life, which I had hitherto lived precariously and with a resignation mixed with impatience, had been very easy. It had been so easy that I was not satisfied with it. I suppose that is why I write, in order to recompose events, to make them sharper, funnier, than they really were. Above all, funnier. I write to be hard. I do not intend to spare any feelings, except, of course, my own.’

– Anita Brookner, Look At Me

‘Sometimes I wish it were different. I wish I were beautiful and lazy and spoiled and not to be trusted. I wish, in short, that I had it easier. Sometimes I find myself lying awake in bed, after one of these silent evenings, wondering if this is to be my lot, if this solitude is to last for the rest of my days. Such thoughts sweep me to the edge of panic. For I want more, and I even think that I deserve it.’

– Anita Brookner, Look At Me

‘I find such people – and I have met one or two – quite fascinating. I find myself respecting them, as I would respect some natural phenomenon: a rainbow, a mountain, a sunset. I recognize that they might have no intrinsic merit, and yet I will find myself trying to please them, to attract their attention. ‘Look at me,’ I want to say. ‘Look at me.’ And I am also intrigued by their destinies, which could, or should, be marvellous. I will exert myself for such people, and I will miss them when they leave. I will always want to know about them, for I tend to be in love with their entire lives.’

– Anita Brookner, Look At Me