‘In her blue dress, in which she had not taken Paris by storm, and her wool coat, Ruth felt shabby and obedient. The girl wore trousers and a pullover, the man a well-cut suit of tweed. A great desire for change came over Ruth and a great uncertainty as to how this might be brought about. For she knew, obscurely, that she had capacities as yet untried but that they might be for ever walled up unless her circumstances changed.’

– Anita Brookner, A Start in Life

‘She was in no hurry to enter the adult world, knowing in advance, and she was not wrong, that she was badly equipped for being there. In any event it seemed unattractive and nothing to do with her.’

– Anita Brookner, A Start in Life

‘She wondered if the story of Paolo and Francesca could be worked into her theory on the Romantic Tradition, and thought about the beautiful sentence she had read in a translation of Dante’s account of their fatal kiss: ‘that day they read no more’. She imagined a tiny volume tumbling silently to the ground and a hand in a pointed sleeve outstretched. Dante had placed Paolo and Francesca in the circle of the lustful and it was true that the kiss had been rapidly followed by murder, but the story appealed to Kitty. Reading interrupted by kissing and followed by death seemed to her an entirely natural progression.’

– Anita Brookner, Providence

‘I want to be totally unreasonable, totally unfair, very demanding, and very beautiful. I want to be part of a real family. I want my father to be there and to shoot things. I do not want my grandmother to tell me what to wear. I want to wear jeans and old sweaters belonging to my brother whom of course I do not have. I do not want to spend my life in this rotten little flat. I want wedding presents.’

– Anita Brookner, Providence

‘When Kitty went back to her other home, the rational little flat in Chelsea, it seemed to her quite empty of everything, of smell, taste, atmosphere, sound, food. She would look out of the window for signs of life, not realizing that she never did this in her other home, in the suburbs, where her grandparents lived. Occasionally a shout would come from the pub on the corner, but it seemed to her that even there very little was going on. And on these Sunday evenings she would survey the empty street, vaguely disquieted, longing to be one thing or the other, for she felt that she was not what she seemed.’

– Anita Brookner, Providence

‘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