A period of growth, change and tragedy in the life of a London psychotherapist, her family and clients is ably tracked and empathetically dissected.
In contrast with the quirky, wry and surreal notes of her previous novel (Morality Tale, 2008), Brownrigg’s latest is a solidly realistic, also minutely considered account of relationships, their anguish, solace and the gaps in between, in Europe in the late 1990s. Mira Braverman, married to British academic Peter, runs a therapeutic practice in which she listens to and analyzes her clients’ dissatisfactions, which are surprisingly often connected to their failures to give birth or be good parents. Mira, a Serbian immigrant, has no children herself (other than her patients) but is bound up with her sister Svetlana and her extended family in Serbia. Peter has a son, Graham, but their relationship is awkward, not least because Peter didn’t learn about the boy until years after his birth. As the months roll forward, Graham gives in to his wife Clare’s wish to start a family; Peter is diagnosed with cancer; and the Kosovo crisis develops, threatening the safety of Svetlana and family. Clare is soon pregnant, while Peter’s swiftly declining health allows Graham to move closer to him, literally and figuratively. Brownrigg makes just a little too much of the theme of children, but her calibration of grief and compassion as she switches viewpoints among many characters and her scrupulous sensitivity lend the narrative a quiet compulsion.
A gifted writer delivers a classic North London novel (sober; domestic; emotionally intelligent; middle-class) enhanced by insight and tenderness.