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The Bay of Angels

read the Blue Fairy Book, the Yellow Fairy Book, and the stories of
Hans Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault. None of
this was groundwork for success in worldly terms, for I was led to
think, and indeed was minded to think, of the redeeming situation
or presence which would put to rights the hardships and dilemmas
under which the characters, and I myself, had been labouring. More
dangerously, it seemed to me that I need make no decisions on my
own behalf, for destiny or fate would always have the matter in
hand. Although I was too sensible, even as a child, to believe in a
fairy godmother I accepted as part of nature's plan that after a
lifetime of sweeping the kitchen floor I would go to the ball, that
the slipper would fit, and that I would marry the prince. Even the
cruel ordeals undergone by the little match girl, or by Hansel and
Gretel, would be reversed by that same principle of inevitable
justice which oversaw all activities, which guided some even if it
defeated others. I knew that some humans were favoured --- by whom?
by the gods? (this evidence was undeniable) --- but I was willing
to believe in the redeeming feature, the redeeming presence that
would justify all of one's vain striving, would dispel one's
disappointments, would in some mysterious way present one with a
solution in which one would have no part, so that all one had to do
was to wait, in a condition of sinless passivity, for the
transformation that would surely take place.

This strikes me now as extremely dangerous, yet parts of this
doctrine seemed overwhelmingly persuasive, principally because
there were no stratagems to be undertaken. One had simply to exist,
in a state of dreamy indirection, for the plot to work itself out.
This was a moral obligation on the part of the plot: there would be
no place for calculation, for scheming, for the sort of behaviour I
was to observe in the few people we knew and which I found
menacing. This philosophy, the philosophy of the fairy tale, had, I
thought, created my mother, whose strange loneliness was surely
only a prelude to some drastic change of fortune in which she need
play no active part. I therefore accepted as normal that she should
spend her days sitting and reading, engaging in minimal outdoor
activity, for surely these were the virtuous prerequisites for
vindication of some sort, for a triumph which would confound the
sceptics, whom I was also able to recognize. She was a widow; I was
hardly aware of the lack of a father, for I accepted that the road
to validation was in essence one of solitude, and rather than
engage in some productive occupation I preferred my mother to wait
for the solution to her situation to be presented as none of her
own volition.

I was thus aware of her unhappiness but able to bear it, with the
help of the knowledge and indeed wisdom I had culled from my
reading. As a child I did not perceive her longings, which had been
cruelly cut short by my father's premature death. Nor was I much
interested in him, for he belonged to prehistory; I had no image of
him other than as a face bending over me, and a photograph of a
slim young man in an academic gown. Even the photograph conformed
to my belief, for it showed someone who was not quite grown up, and
therefore a fit companion for my mother who was not quite grown up
either, a woman in embryo whose maturity was still far off. This
made me comfortable with my own position, a fit descendant of a
couple on the verge of existence who were merely undergoing some
form of trial and who were surely approaching some beneficent
outcome which would make even my father's death assume acceptable
proportions. He had died, and my mother had survived his death. Her
unhappiness, I was confident, would be overturned, as any term of
trial must be. It sometimes seemed to me that my father's
disappearance had merely prepared the way for a story very much
like the ones I was so fond of reading. I was not then aware of the
universal desire for a happy ending: I would not have understood
such an abstraction. But I did know, or was convinced, that our
story would have a happy ending, not realizing that there is no
proper ending in human affections until time provides an ending to
which all must submit.

The fact that we were of the same species (even my absent father
contributed his very real silence to our own relative silence)
merely emphasized the gulf that existed between ourselves and the
harsher world outside our flat in Edith Grove. At least I assumed
that it was harsher: how could it not be? When my mother walked
soundlessly from one room to another, sat reading in the quiet
afternoons, or carefully watered the plants on our little balcony,
I was not aware of any lack or discrepancy in our lives, or not
until some outward agency disrupted our slow peaceful rhythm. Our
street was nearly silent, almost abandoned by the late morning: I
could be trusted to make my own way to school. After I had done my
homework in the evening I would take up my position at the window.
I liked to watch the lights go on in other houses, as if preparing
for a wayfarer's return. My reading had conditioned me to think in
terms of wayfarers, so that footsteps on the pavement gave me an
agreeable sensation that the stories contained enough authenticity
to justify the fact that I still read them.

No visit disturbed our evenings, nor did we wish for any. It was
only at the weekends, when my mother said, 'Better put your books
away. The girls are coming,' that I resigned myself to a lesson in
reality which would be instructive but largely unwelcome. I feared
this lesson on my mother's behalf; I knew instinctively that her
good manners were inadequate protection against the sentimental
tactlessness of our visitors, who surely thought their presence
something of a comfort to my mother and even to myself. 'They mean
well,' said my mother. 'They are good women.' But we both knew that
this was a lame excuse.

'The girls', as opposed to 'the boys' (their husbands, twin
brothers in the hotel business), were as devoted as two sisters
might have been, although they were not related. Rather it was my
mother and I who were related to them, through my
great-grandfather, who had married twice and had raised two
separate families, one eventually resulting in my father and the
other in the boys, who did not accompany their wives on these
visits, although they might have done, on some vague grounds of
consanguinity. What family feeling there was seemed to be in the
gift of the girls, Millicent and Nancy, who faithfully kept up with
my mother, whether through charity or genuine interest. It seemed
to intrigue, even to excite them, that a woman of my mother's age
could live without the presence of a man; they regarded her with
pity, with anxiety, but also with curiosity, as if in her place
they would have gone mad. They had little self-control, were
obtuse, and kind, but also avid. Neither had children. Their days
seemed, to hear their anecdotes, full of activity: shopping,
maintenance, which was of a high order, visits, and then back home
to the boys for dinner and an evening of bridge, at which they
would complain incessantly, their beautiful complacency fracturing
slightly to reveal a perhaps unguessed-at discontent.

Despite their physical perfection, which impressed and unselfishly
delighted my mother, they were women whose very real innocence was
but one feature of their glossy appearance, nurtured solemnly, and
thus providing a fit basis for compliments. Drawn together by the
accident of their marriages, they remained devoted to each other by
virtue of an extraordinary similarity of temperament. They were
sensuous, but not sensual, felt relieved that neither one of them
was entirely satisfied by her husband's company, took refuge in
material comfort and busy social arrangements. Marriage was no less
than their right; it was also their alibi, protecting them from any
form of censure, and may have been entered into precisely for that
reason. My mother was well aware of this, as they may not have
been; I deduced this from her kindness, which had something
protective about it, as if they needed to be sheltered from certain
realizations. I accepted them as a fact of nature. Their anxiety,
unusual in very handsome women, was directed towards my mother, for
whom they felt genuinely sorry. Their visits were mercy visits, in
the sense that there are mercy killings, with the same admixture of

I disliked them because they interrupted our peaceful lives, with
their incessant suggestions as to how my mother might improve her
solitary condition. I disliked them because these suggestions made
no provision for myself. She was urged to, in their words,
socialize, and offered the occasional invitation to their parties,
which she attended with a martyr's stoicism. I was also aware that
they discussed her, deriving some comfort from her sadness, her
obvious inactivity. I could see that they meant well, since their
visits were occasions of lavish generosity: boxes of cakes were
produced, a beautiful pineapple, and cartons of strawberries
brought up from the car by Millicent's driver; at the same time I
was puzzled that their real kindness gave them no legitimization in
my eyes. My favourite myths did not apply to them, for I could not
in all conscience see them as the Ugly Sisters. I simply perceived
that they had not waited, and therefore had not been rewarded, as
my mother would surely be rewarded. It is not impossible that they
perceived this as well.

'You both look splendid,' said my mother with a smile. This fact at
least was incontrovertible. The girls habitually looked splendid
since most of their time was devoted to that end. Millicent in
particular was immaculate; her beautifully manicured hand
frequently patted the upward sweep of her imposing coiffure, which
was cared for every day by a local hairdresser who had no objection
to sending one of his juniors to the house in Bedford Gardens to
brush away any imperfections that the early morning might have
wrought. Millicent was the younger of the two, plump, wide-eyed,
expectant. Nancy, by contrast, was tough, imperious, a heavy
smoker, granted seniority by virtue of having lived abroad, in
various of the brothers' hotels, mainly in the region between Nice
and the Italian border. I saw that she could be relied upon to look
after Millicent, but that neither of them would look after my
mother. Once, when some malaise or illness had kept my mother at
home, they had sent a deputy, 'poor Margaret', who had been adopted
as a child by Nancy's parents and who performed the valuable
function of looking after both girls. She lived in a flat in
Nancy's house, which was conveniently situated in the same street
as that occupied by Millicent and her husband, Eddie. I disliked
Margaret even more than the girls, since I sensed that she was
willing to break out, could hardly be constrained, in fact, and
conformed to others plans for her only because she was too lazy, or
perhaps too fearful, to strike out on her own. In this she differed
from my mother, who, though passive, had not altogether forgone
courage, as I, and perhaps the girls, were obliged to

'If only you'd learn to play bridge,' lamented Millie, to which
Nancy rejoined, 'Leave her alone. How do you know she hasn't got a
secret life?

This was taken as a risqué remark, although it would have been
quite in order for my mother to take a lover (I thought 'a
suitor'), in which case they would have been shocked, and even
disappointed. They did not suggest that she get a job. In the 1950s
it was thought quite reasonable for women to stay at home and live
a peaceful semi-detached semi-suburban life. The great awakening,
which was supposed to benefit my generation, had not yet taken
place. My father had left a little money, the remains of a legacy,
which was supplemented by a small annual cheque from some
investments: we lived frugally but decently, unlike the girls, who
served mainly as showcases for their husbands' success. This too
was thought quite normal at the time, although they seemed to me
idle and pampered. Their discontent, which they would furiously
have denied, came from purposelessness. In any event, although
enjoying the spectacle of their prosperity, I preferred the
propriety of our own circumstances, which seemed to fit in with the
preordained plan which I knew from my early reading. I did not
know, nor, I think, did my mother, that circumstances can be
changed, or at least given a helping hand. There seemed to be
something natural, even unavoidable, about our lives, which may be
why they were so peaceful. Any dissent, any criticism, came from
the girls, fascinated as they were by our unmanned condition. Our
function was to set their own lives on course, to bring their many
advantages into relief. My mother played her part. I merely looked

'What eyes that child has,' said Nancy. 'Has she nothing to

'She reads a lot,' said my mother. 'We both do. Zoë, have you
thanked the girls for the strawberries?

It was true that I read a lot, but by now I had graduated to adult
reading. Dickens had my full attention, for surely in those novels
he was telling the same story of travail and triumph. The
additional benefit, apart from the eccentric characters, with their
eccentric names, was that many of these travails were undertaken by
young men of peerless disposition. This was welcome proof that such
life experiences were universal, and, more important, could be, and
usually were, brought about while suffering an initial handicap ---
wicked stepparents, an indigent family --- which the heroes (for
David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby were undoubted heroes)
could circumvent with little more than their own blamelessness to
guide them. This struck me as entirely beautiful, and convinced me
that one must emulate their efforts, that one must never be
discouraged by the unhelpfulness of others. Not that I had ever
experienced such an obstacle at close quarters: what I took for
wickedness was in fact worldliness, as my mother explained to me.
The unapologetic presence of our visitors, their peculiar blend of
restlessness and complacency, which was discordant, was essentially
harmless, though it occasionally sought relief in imprecations, in
disapproval of others, principally of my mother and myself. I saw
--- in Nancy's hoarse smoker's laugh, in Millicent's delicate hand
smoothing her hair --- a quality that was alien to our own lives,
faintly undesirable. Sometimes my mother's eyes had a look of
tiredness, and she was obliged to turn her head away for a brief
moment, as suggestions for improvement, or rather self-improvement,
came her way. These visits, which I now see were undertaken for
more merciful reasons than mere curiosity, were in essence a form
of female solidarity before that condition had been politicized.
They were concerned for any woman living on her own, with only a
child for company. At the same time they were fearful that such
ivory-tower isolation might be catching. They wanted my mother to
be reinstated in society for their sakes as much as for her own.
They genuinely pitied a woman who had no status, but they also
translated this lack of status as failure in the world's

What distinguished my mother was a form of guilelessness which they
had, perhaps regretfully, laid aside. This was what I saw: they had
exchanged one condition for another, and may not have been entirely
compensated. My mother was their crusade: they also usefully saw
her as a pupil. When they rose to leave, the frowns disappeared
from their faces, the concern evaporated, and their embraces were
genuine. They were glad to get back to their own orbit, with its
comprehensible distractions, glad to have done their social duty,
even if the results were so sadly lacking. My mother, shaking
cushions after their departure, would be more silent than usual,
and I somehow knew I should not intrude on her thoughts. I
reflected that Nancy and Millie were characters, no less and no
more, and that any confrontation --- but none had taken place, nor
would take place --- would be unequal. My mother was bound to
succeed, for she was untainted by the world's corruption and thus
qualified for remission from further ordeals. This was slightly
less affirmative than my previous beliefs. I comforted myself that
even David Copperfield had had moments of downheartedness.

On the whole I was happy. I liked my school, I liked my friends; I
liked the shabby charm of our flat, from which a light shone out in
winter to guide me home. I liked our silent streets, the big
windows of the houses in which artists had once lived: I liked its
emanations of the nineteenth century. The only difference was that
I no longer thought in terms of wayfarers; such people had now
become neighbours, or, once I was out of their orbit, pedestrians.
That we were somewhat on the margin of things did not disturb me,
although the girls, making their way by car from Kensington,
complained of the distance, as if they had been obliged to cross a
frontier, or to go back in time. It is true that our surroundings
were a little mournful, perhaps unnaturally so to those habitual
shoppers. I, on the other hand, cherished them as a place of
safety. The streetlamp that shone outside my bedroom window I
accepted as a benevolent gesture on behalf of the town council, the
man who swept the leaves in autumn as a guardian of our decency. I
was hardly aware of the sound of cars, for fewer people drove then.
Even footfalls sounded discreet and distant, and the clang of an
iron gate was sometimes the only sound in the long

This struck me as an ideal state of affairs. But as I grew older I
began to be aware that my mother was less happy than I was. Her
eyes had a distant look, and she turned her head slowly when I
spoke to her, as if she had momentarily forgotten that I was there.
She was still a young woman but she was slightly careworn, as if
her thoughts were a burden to her. She was also more silent,
nursing what I later came to understand as grief. She was entirely
lucid, had devoted her life without complaint to a child who may
not have been rewarding (but I did not think that then), and by
dint of suppressing almost every healthy impulse had maintained
both her composure and her dignity. Hence her silences, her very
slight withdrawal from myself. Her survival depended on a control
which had not previously been in default. For the first time I
began to wish that my father had lived, but selfishly, as young
people do, in order to leave me free. I knew, with my increasingly
adult perceptions, that it was not in my gift to deal with such a
deficit, that my mother's loneliness was acute, that regrets, long
buried, had begun their insidious journey to full consciousness . .
. My mother was a good woman, too good to give way to self-pity.
This austerity of behaviour denied her close friends. I think she
exchanged only the most obvious pleasantries with our neighbours,
keeping her most painful thoughts fiercely to herself. To voice
even one of them would have constituted a danger.

Her sadness, I thought, was brought on by the knowledge that life's
opportunities had definitively passed her by, and also by virtue of
the fact that the redeeming feature, or presence, had not
manifested itself. She was thus cast into the category of the
unwanted, the unsought. I perceived this on certain lightless
afternoons, when there was no joyous voice to greet me when I
returned from a friend's house, from noisy friendly normality. I
perceived it, no doubt correctly, but it burdened me. I wanted no
part of her passivity. I was young and not notably unfeeling, but I
did not want to be a partner in anyone's regrets. Had I been of an
age to understand the full implications of this dereliction I
should have resented it strenuously. As it was I began to see some
virtue in the girls' remonstrances, though in truth they had little
but themselves to offer by way of compensation for her solitude.
Therefore, when I put my key in the door one afternoon and heard
Millie's festive voice exclaiming, 'Now, I'm counting on you, Anne.
There'll only be a few people. Nice people. I know you'll like
them,' I was inclined to add my own encouragements to hers.

My mother murmured something placatory.

'Nonsense,' said Nancy. 'You have to make a bit of an effort in
this life if you want to get anywhere. And as far as I can make out
you're not getting anywhere.

'Six-thirty,' said Millie. 'I'll send the car for you.

After that it would have been difficult to back down.

My mother's expression, after they had left, was bemused, resigned,
even cynical. I took it as a good sign that she went into her
bedroom and opened her creaking wardrobe door. Everything in our
flat creaked, a sound I found friendly. Now I saw, perhaps for the
first time, that it was rather gloomy, that my mother's room was in
perpetual shadow, too conducive to nostalgia, to introspection. On
her dressing-table was the photograph of the young man in the
academic gown whom I did not remember. His face was steadfast,
obedient, not quite up to the task of growing up, certainly not of
growing old. I regretted his absence, as I had not done when still
a child, with my mother to myself. Now I had her to myself, but was
no longer a child, was beginning to feel a hunger for wider
experiences, for a life outside the home, even one as well ordered
as ours. Perhaps precisely for that reason.

'Do I look all right?' asked my mother, on that next Friday

I thought she looked beautiful, in her simple blue dress and
jacket. She was plainly agitated, and had it not been for the car
being sent would have thankfully abandoned the whole adventure.
When Tom, Millie's driver, rang the bell, we were both in a state
of high concern. It was almost a relief when she left, and I was
thankful for the hour or two I could spend on my own before her
return. I thought of her among those nice people and hoped
painfully, not that she was enjoying herself --- that would have
been too much to expect --- but that she was not feeling too
lonely. For a woman as shy as my mother social occasions on which
she was unaccompanied were a nightmare. That was why Millie's
pressing invitations, offered, or rather insisted upon for entirely
defensible reasons, were, more often than not, gratefully

But she had not refused this one, and it was at Millie's party, on
that Friday evening, that she met her second husband, my
stepfather-to-be, and thus changed both our lives.


My mother's fate having been settled according to the archaic
principles of natural justice, and the conditions for her
redemption having thus been met, I was now free to cast off on my
own. I was sixteen, nearly seventeen, and the timing was
providential. I had no doubt that we should all be entirely happy.
I loved Simon, who, at our first meeting, embraced me with Jewish
cordiality, making no distinction between my mother and myself. It
was my first contact with genuine expansiveness and I warmed to it.
Standing in our flat in Edith Grove he revealed its shabbiness, and
thus deducted much of its charm. He was a big man, who seemed to
smile all the time, delighted to have found a woman as unspoilt as
my mother. He later told us that he too had had to be prevailed
upon to attend that epochal party, for, although naturally
gregarious, he was aware of the lack of a companion in these most
public of circumstances. He was a widower, who, since the death of
his wife, had devoted his life to business, or rather to 'business
interests', as he termed them. He exuded a pleasant air of health
and viability, which did something to mitigate the fact that he was
rather old: he was self-conscious about his age, which he dismissed
as 'nearly the wrong side of seventy', but he was so obviously fit,
and so benignly energetic, that I soon overlooked this fact.

I knew that he could be relied upon to take care of my mother,
which seemed to me our prime concern. By this stage I knew, or
suspected, that she had money worries: the tenancy of our flat had
only another year to run, and after that we should have to move
into more restricted quarters or take out a loan from the bank.
Both were problematic, but the problem was solved by the fact that
Simon occupied two floors of a large house in Onslow Square, into
which he was anxious to transfer my mother as soon as possible. He
also possessed a house in France, which I thought much more
interesting. Over dinner our fates were swiftly settled. My mother
would live in Onslow Square and I would stay on in Edith Grove
until the lease ran out, after which Simon would buy me a flat of
my own. 'Look on it as a wedding present,' he smiled. 'There's no
reason why you shouldn't share in my good fortune.' This easy
generosity was very difficult to resist. Besides, none of us had a
desire to live under the same roof. My mother thought it would be
unfair on me, even indelicate, to live at close quarters to a late
marriage, particularly between two people of different ages, and
Simon was naturally fastidious, anxious to hide the evidence of his
years --- 'my advanced years', he joked --- from critical eyes. As
for myself I had no desire to see his pills in the bathroom, to
witness his laundry arrangements, or be present at his intimate
life with my mother. This, I thought, should be kept as secret as

Something in me shied away from the thought of his making love to
her, for this was the flaw in the arrangement. Later I understood
this as a primal scene, the kind infants fantasize, or even
register, as taking place between their parents. If my mother had
met someone more like herself, or even like the young man in the
photograph --- modest, trusting, steadfast --- I should have had no
further qualms. It was just that Simon, so obviously a good man,
was foreign to our way of life, our settled habits. His bulk filled
our flat whenever he visited us, as did the smell of his cologne. I
could not quite get used to his habit of humming under his breath,
or his restlessness, which might just have been an expression of
his insistent physicality. He had the good taste to make no
allusions to what was to come when my mother would live with him.
As far as I was concerned he was a sort of Santa Claus, a provider,
to whom giving was second nature.

I felt a deep relief on my mother's behalf and also on my own; I
should now be able to begin my David Copperfield progress towards
my own apotheosis. I never ceased to feel this with regard to
Simon: he was a facilitator, an enabler, and the unlikely outcome
of his attending a party, a tiresome social engagement to which he
had not looked forward, and which he intended to leave early, was,
I thought, beneficial in the way that only unexpected rewards are
beneficial. He was, quite literally, our gift from the gods.

Whether my mother thought this or not was another matter. I was old
enough to understand that she was preoccupied with the business of
having to find another flat for us both, and perhaps tired of
pretending that she was entirely satisfied with her way of life.
Perhaps the example of those visitors, the girls, with their talk
of holidays, had made more of an impression on her than she was
willing to concede. She did not envy them their entertainments, but
she did envy their security, and even their unthinking acceptance
of their husbands' indulgence. Although sincerely shocked by their
entirely natural delight in this state of affairs, she was made
wistful by the presents that the chauffeur brought up from the car,
wishing that she had it in her gift to endow others in the same
manner. The fact that these presents always consisted of things to
eat merely reinforced the impression that some fundamental
discrepancy existed between the sort of woman she was and all the
others, who had made a better job of marriage and extracted from it
satisfactions that were almost edible, certainly tangible. I now
see that even the most saintly of women can ponder the difference,
and although we both deplored these gifts --- the cakes, the
strawberries --- we were forced to admit that we enjoyed them. Only
we enjoyed them rather thoughtfully, as they made their incongruous
appearance on our dinner-table. Some days our evening meal
consisted almost entirely of these offerings, and I firmly believe
that the sight of a chocolate éclair on my plate, in lieu of
something more sensible, made her reflect that this would not do,
that none of this was appropriate, and that if it were too late for
her to start again the same need not necessarily be true for

To do the girls justice they were both delighted. 'I must remember
to thank them,' laughed my mother. But she was almost serious. She
thought herself inadequate in the light of such good fortune, and
needed stronger personalities to maintain her resolve. The girls'
fretful attention was now directed towards my mother's appearance:
the car arrived punctually to bear them all off for an afternoon of
shopping, and she would return home with bags from Harrods and
Harvey Nichols, complaining of a splitting headache. I detested the
clothes the girls made her buy, or had thrust on her as presents,
and so did Simon. 'We'll find something in France,' he said, his
big hand pushing aside a silvery skirt which had no place in my
mother's life. 'You can leave all this stuff here, or give it

'They meant well,' said my mother.

'Of course they did. Their intentions were of the best. But they
wanted you to look like themselves.

'And to be like themselves,' said my mother to me after he had
left. 'And I don't think I can be.

'He loves you for your own sake,' I said stoutly.

'Yes, he does. He does seem to. Isn't that extraordinary?

I suspected that the girls had tried to indoctrinate my mother in
the ways of acquisition, paying no attention to the fact that
appropriation was foreign to her nature. They may have been
sincerely shocked by her attitude of modest dependency, for she
almost at once, and instinctively, began to behave like a wife to
Simon, thus once again earning the disapproval of the girls and
furnishing them with an agreeable subject of conversation. They
hated, with some reason, her life of lowered expectations, and
always had, fearing the comparison. Her celibacy had been abhorrent
to them, and now that this was at an end they found it difficult to
come to terms with the fact of her brighter eyes, her more frequent
smiles, even her rare but now occasional laughter. Feelings were
disguised, but not entirely successfully. I began to dislike the
girls, and was grateful that their patronage would be no longer
needed. They had never had any time for me, nor I for them. I
foresaw that we should shortly be separated by circumstances and
was secretly relieved.

Now that I am so much older I see that this new opportunity was not
one to be missed, but embraced perhaps a little less than
wholeheartedly. This was not first love, which my mother must have
experienced for my father, however remote that must now have
seemed. This was a prudent arrangement which had been entered upon
almost by accident and which was to retain an air of
absentmindedness, of not quite willed satisfaction. It was
providential: all seemed to agree on that point. If it gave my
mother any joy it was a joy she expected to reveal itself in the
longer term, when she got used to her new life and was able to take
a fuller part in it, when she would come to accept her new dignity
(but never to exploit it), and when she learned to be as expansive
as her new husband, a task for which she was singularly ill

I shied away from the prospect of my mother's physical life, for I
was as contained as she was. Simon had perfected the agreeable
business of kissing us both, with the same obvious affection, in
the short interval my mother spent in our flat, with me, before
moving into Onslow Square. Of course I missed her, but as Simon
insisted that I see her every day I did not mind too badly. This
was helped by the fact that I felt more at home in our old flat
than in Onslow Square, and also because I had a great deal of
studying to do, for I was soon to go to university. My prolonged
childhood seemed to have ended rather abruptly, and I felt
unsettled by this: at the same time I recognized the fact that it
was over and that in future I should have to rely on my friends for
company. I was momentarily in demand, as newly fortunate people
are, and the fact of having my own flat added to my prestige.

Excerpted from THE BAY OF ANGELS © Copyright 2011 by Anita
Brookner. Reprinted with permission by Vintage Contemporaries, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Bay of Angels
by by Anita Brookner

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0375727604
  • ISBN-13: 9780375727603