Anita brookner

An inspirational teacher: Elizabeth Finch, by Julian Barnes, reviewed

‘Whenever you see a character in a novel, let alone a biography or history book, reduced and neatened into three adjectives, always distrust that description.’ So says the protagonist of Julian Barnes’s latest novel, the poised, droll, epigrammatic Elizabeth Finch, who is loosely modelled on his late friend and fellow Booker Prize-winner Anita Brookner. A lecturer delivering an adult education course on Culture and Civilisation, an exercise she considers ‘rigorous fun’, she introduces her students to figures such as Goethe and Epictetus. Her talks, designed to make them question what they think they know about the past, are peppered with little provocations: ‘We should always distinguish between mutual passion and