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Altered States

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Standing on a railway platform in a Swiss resort town, sensibly clad in his Burberry raincoat and walking shoes, a man thinks he may be looking at the woman for whom he ruined his life many years earlier. Alan Sherwood, a quiet English solicitor, remembers back to a time when he stepped briefly out of character to indulge in a liaison with Sarah Miller, an intriguing but heartless distant relative--only to find himself in a series of absurd situations that culminated in his marriage to Sarah's clinging, childlike friend Angela.

With her compassionate portrait of a man who has paid a terrible price for his folly, Anita Brookner gives us a novel that it at once harrowing and humane. In the traditions of Henry James and Thomas Mann, Altered States is a beautifully rendered tale of loneliness, guilt, and erotic obsession.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 02, 1996 – Booker Prize winner Brookner excels at rendering the stoic, muted lives of lonely people. In another of her coolly rendered but immensely absorbing novels, she trains her keenly observant eye on the fear of facing old age alone. Her 16th novel (after Incidents in the Rue Laughier) is also a stunning study of obsessive passion and of the ways one man's promising life is irrevocably altered by an unwise but irresistible attraction. Narrator Alan Sherwood, a conventional, dutiful London solicitor, now in his mid-50s, looks back on events that shaped his life over 15 years earlier: his reckless, mad lust for and one-night liaison with scornful, self-centered Sarah Miller (granddaughter of his father's first wife); his loveless marriage-on-the-rebound to prim, clinging Angela Milsom; the still-birth of their infant daughter, which Angela unfairly blames on Alan's absence (he was off secretly pursuing Sarah); and Angela's subsequent suicide. Using Alan's soul searching as the framework of her narrative, Brookner explores the discordant ways men and women view each other and the world. Alan, who mythologizes calculating, ruthless Sarah as a "passively demonic" pre-Raphaelite vision, later comes to understand that childishly dependent Angela, who inhabits the other end of the spectrum, is as aberrant a personality as Sarah. Indeed, it is a little disconcerting that Brookner's view of female nature here seems essentially uncharitable and extreme. All the women in this book, including Alan's mother and his uncle's new wife, create some sort of havoc in trying to balance their needs for intimacy and independence. Yet Brookner makes them credible, and her story of a decent man forever adrift in "intense and hopeless longing" is alive with tension and heartbreak.
Altered States
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jan 12, 1998
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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