‘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

‘Love was a terrible thing. You poisoned it and stabbed at it and knocked it down into the mud – well down – and it got up and staggered on, bleeding and muddy and awful. Like – like Rasputin. Marya began to laugh.’

– Jean Rhys, Quartet

‘I’ve been wasting my life,’ she thought. ‘How have I stood it for so long?’ And her longing for joy, for any joy, for any pleasure was a mad thing in her heart. It was sharp like pain and she clenched her teeth. It was like some splendid caged animal roused and fighting to get out. It was an unborn child jumping, leaping, kicking at her side.’

– Jean Rhys, Quartet

‘She spent the foggy day in endless, aimless walking, for it seemed to her that if she moved quickly enough she would escape the fear that hunted her. It was a vague and shadowy fear of something cruel and stupid that had caught her and would never let her go. She had always known that it was there – hidden under the more or less pleasant surface of things. Always. Ever since she was a child.

You could argue about hunger or cold or loneliness, but with that fear you couldn’t argue. It went too deep. You were too mysteriously sure of its terror. You could only walk very fast and try to leave it behind you.’

– Jean Rhys, Quartet

‘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