cover image Lewis Percy

Lewis Percy

Anita Brookner. Pantheon Books, $18.95 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58446-1

A standout even among the author's critically acclaimed oeuvre, this impeccably crafted novel examines the life of one of her typically out-of-the-mainstream characters. The son of a timorous widow, the eponymous protagonist is naive and immature, but his romantic nature ``craves the company of women'' as surrogate nurturers. After his mother dies, Lewis takes a humble library job and searches for a wife. He settles on Tissy Harper, a library assistant as virginal as himself; she has the added emotional handicap of agoraphobia, and is tied to her formidable mother. Instead of fulfilling his idealistic longings, marriage robs Lewis of his dreams. Tissy becomes even more withdrawn and enigmatic, and when she leaves him on suspicion of his infidelity with his best friend's sister, Lewis is bereft not only of wifely company but of his child, born soon after the separation. Brookner's hallmark virtues are exhibited here: her intelligence and lively wit, the stunning clarity of her observations and the subtle but rich nuances of her prose. Timely issues inform the irony, as Tissy finds justification for her grievances in the feminist movement and Lewis's liberating metamorphosis occurs just as he becomes superannuated by computer technology. In her exploration of the areas of incomprehension and misunderstanding between mens' and women's expectations of life--and of each other--Brookner has produced an immensely enjoyable novel. (Mar.)