Thursday, 20 July 2017

Incidents in the Rue Saint-Denis

She soon had a clientele among the girls, cheerful, stoical, good-natured creatures who petted the baby and took to spending their off-duty moments in the workroom with Fanny. There was nothing downtrodden about these girls; they regarded ordinary married women with scorn and pity.
A Family Romance, ch. 3

Brookner's determined blithe tolerance of what would now be called sex work is of some interest. It may be that she's cocking a snook at the political correctness that was coming into its own at the time of A Family Romance's publication (1993). Or at feminism - of which Brookner wasn't a noted follower.

But it probably has its roots in her affection for the modes and mores of the eighteenth century. The girls, during the Occupation, became, we learn, mistresses: they were, as Brookner puts it, 'elevated to the status of regular mistress'. The conservative imagination, far from being outraged by such goings on, instead is almost reassured by a sense of tradition and continuity.

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