DOLLY by Anita Brookner (Vintage: $11;...

DOLLY by Anita Brookner (Vintage: $11; 260 pp.). Brookner writes with the eloquent formality of an earlier generation of British novelists. The only child of bookish parents, Jane Manning finds that she has inherited a comfortable fortune and a singularly eccentric aunt--a family onus passed from mother to daughter. Brookner draws an exceptionally vivid portrait of a woman who is selfish, vain and patronizing, yet almost pathetically vulnerable: "For the essence of Dolly was longing: it was expressed in that ardent smile which had captivated my uncle on the dance floor long ago, and which, before that, had left so many American soldiers with a disarming and disarmingly misleading impression of a typical French girl."

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