George Bland has spent a lifetime living up to his name. Wanting nothing more than to put as much distance as possible between himself and his embattled working-class youth, the London bachelor has embraced the kind of bourgeois security many would find stifling. For decades Bland's orderly world has revolved around the office; the Sunday phone chats with Louise, his by now all-but-platonic mistress; and, most important, his friendship with his colleague Putnam, with whom he has spent countless lunches planning a postretirement trip to the Far East. But on the brink of their adventure, Putnam dies. And so, at 65, Bland finds himself with loads of time, lots of money—thanks to Putnam's will—and no one to enjoy them with.
Enter Katy. Half Bland's age and hungry for investors in the New Age therapy business, Katy is his radical opposite—yet unaccountably fascinating to him. As Bland begins to wrestle with the fantasies Katy arouses, he, like the solitaries in 12 previous Brookner novels, is forced to confront some hard truths about his hermetic existence.
Brookner is on familiar ground here, painting on an even tinier canvas than usual. Yet, master miniaturist that she is, her sure strokes make for a picture that lingers. (Random House, $23)