'You are a good girl; a very good girl. And you are doing everything you ought to do.'
Lydia turned on him a look of such gratitude that he was abashed to receive so much for so little. They continued to pace the terrace in silence, very comfortably.
'I wish Mother would get better,' said Lydia, with such a forlorn note that Noel's heart was wrenched.
'So do I,' he said. 'And if you need me you will let me know, won't you. I could probably manage to get over any time if you needed a bit of comforting.'
'I'd like it more than anything in the world,' said Lydia, 'but I wouldn't ever, ever ask you, however much I wanted it. Thank you most awfully though.'
She slipped her hand into Noel's as they walked.
--Angela Thirkell, Cheerfulness Breaks In, 1940
I forbid myself to remember that it has not always been easy, and I never, ever, blame my parents: that sort of thing is so old hat. I pass lightly through life, without anguished attachments, and this was nearly always the way I intended it to be. I say nearly always because I do sometimes have these odd dreams. The dreams are of no interest in themselves, but they leave me wondering where they came from. In dreams I bear children, sink smiling into loving arms, fight my way out of empty rooms, and regularly drown. I wake up in a state of astonishment, and sometimes of fear, but I banish the memory of the dreams, of which no one knows anything. Telling dreams, like blaming one's parents, or falling in love and making a fool of oneself, comes into my category of forbidden things. And yet ghastly Teddy, who was obviously even more used to this kind of thing than I was, but fortunately rather out of date, had singled me out. I felt almost ashamed until I realized that he was one of those old-fashioned men who think that a liberated woman is fair game and that she will only want a little masculine attention in order to turn back thankfully into the unreconstructed model. He probably thought he was being rather kind. Had I accepted his invitation I should no doubt have been subjected to a certain amount of propaganda, the same propaganda he had been using all his life in order to get women to change their minds, but virtuously backed up by a desire to make me see the light. Seduction to him would always be disguised as conversion, and I had no doubt that somewhere along the primrose path he would utter the words, 'There's a good girl!'
--Anita Brookner, A Friend from England, 1987
Brookner's narrator, Rachel Kennedy, is an unreliable narrator in the Henry James sense: she is building a web of deceit, but the target of her deception is none but herself. I did not see this clearly until the story moved, in the final chapter, to Venice, which is very much a Jamesian landscape built almost entirely of symbolism and unmasking.