Maeve Brennan translates her personal loneliness superbly into the works of an outstandingly sombre and moving novella that is The Visitor. Brennan awkwardly lands us into the epicentre of young Anastasia King’s disheartening journey back to Ireland, a place she once called home. Here Anastasia is welcomed coldly and hence left feeling ill at ease in the house she grew up. Acclaimed for her portrayal of depression, Brennan articulates a remarkably grave telling of Anastasia’s experience, so much so that the Reader is consumed by empathy throughout. ‘This is quite different. It is a standstill. There is silence upstairs and downstairs, behind the closed doors and in the hall and on the landings. There is no compulsion at all,’ writes Brennan of Anastasia’s outlook on life within her home, harbouring the sense of non-feeling that she aims to portray.
Much like Virginia Woolf, Brennan fixates on the subtle and the insignificant, for the observer to elaborate their thoughts upon. Here, those of depression and desperation. The pathetic fallacy of using gloomy Dublin as a backdrop to The Visitor illustrates how Brennan perceived the life of her protagonist, as it is her blatant intent to embellish a numbing upon her Reader, so that they too can feel as both herself and Anastasia had done. And whilst pacing the novel at a slow and delicate pace, Brennan succeeds in creating this sense upon her readers. It is most certainly not one to read on a summer’s day.
Discovered after her death, it is probable that Brennan would have been encouraged to manipulate the ending of The Visitor before publication. As it is, we are left somewhat confused at the abrupt and inconclusive final paragraphs. Not surprisingly, however, Brennan pulls this off; perhaps with the intent of leaving the reader anaesthetised. Without a doubt, Brennan has created a short and sullen marvel.