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'The Visitor' by Maeve Brennan - Book Review

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published October 11th 2012
Cast Aside
'The Visitor' by Maeve Brennan


An intriguing and emotional tragedy that will touch the hearts of young and old alike. Set in the mid 1940s, The Visitor takes us through the motions of loneliness, rejection and detachment. Despite the end holding no resolution, the lack of fulfilment, provides a truly engaging story that anyone who has ever experienced loss or the feeling of abandonment can relate to.

After Anastasia King leaves Dublin to live with her runaway mother in Paris her grandmother feels betrayed and becomes resentful of her decision. When Anastasia tries to return she soon finds that there is no welcoming committee and that 'the grandmother', as she is so coldly described, is not so eager to have her back.

The Visitor is similar to much of Brennan's other work, focussing on the themes of vulnerability, depression and spite. Perhaps this is because she is in many ways re-telling us her own story, being born in Dublin, but moving to the US, she ended up in isolated madness, unable to call either place home and until she finally died in 1993.

The mood of this novella is similar to that of the fairy tales written by Hans Christian Anderson, whose writings on disillusionment and suffering left no happy endings for his characters, but deeply moved his readers.

Mrs King: the grandmother whose childish but vindictive need to assert power is expressed through an understated, calm demeanour adroitly created by Maeve Brennan's atmosphere of false affection. Mrs King's soft but eerily chilling voice makes it unquestionably clear that Anastasia is unwanted and only there 'for a visit'. Though you may instantly loathe the grandmother, Anastasia is far from perfect; she is stubborn, she lies, forces her presence upon others and spitefully breaks her promise.

If you want to take a deeper look into the tragedies of real life, Maeve Brennan portrays perfectly the grey elements of what we wish or at least Anastasia wishes - could simply be a black and white world.
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