Edith Hope, a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name, remained standing at the window, as if an access of good will could pierce the mysterious opacity with which she had been presented, although she had been promised a tonic cheerfulness, a climate devoid of illusions, an utterly commonsensical, not to say pragmatic, set of circumstances – quiet hotel, excellent cuisine, long walks, lack of excitement, early nights – in which she could be counted upon to retrieve her serious and hard-working personality and to forget the unfortunate lapse which had led to this brief exile, in this apparently unpopulated place, at this slowly darkening time of the year, when she should have been at home… -From Hotel Du Lac, page 8-
And so begins Anita Brookner’s Booker Award winning novel. Edith Hope finds herself banished to a hotel in Switzerland to ponder her life and recover from a romantic stumble. Once there, she meets the other hotel visitors – a cast of characters with their own secrets, desires, and weaknesses.
Iris and Jennifer Pusey are a mother-daughter ensemble who fill their lives with the superficial glee of material gain. Edith observes their lives with a wry humor.
Behind their extreme pleasantness there lies something entrenched, non-negotiable, as if they can really take no one seriously but themselves. As if they feel sorry for anyone who is denied the possibility of being a Pusey. And this, of course, is, by definition, everyone. -From Hotel Du Lac, page 109-
Also residing in the hotel is the elderly Mme de Bonneuil who has been abandoned by her son and selfish daughter-in-law; Monica who suffers an eating disorder and dotes on her spoiled dog; and Mr. Neville – a blunt man convinced that self-centeredness is the key to happiness.
Anita Brookner weaves a story which is introspective and beautifully developed about a woman searching for herself while struggling to find love and acceptance. Despite its serious undertones, Hotel Du Lac is surprisingly funny. Edith embodies the idea of feminism, liberation and romantic ideals – a woman who is torn between her fantasies of being swept away by romance, while at the same time desiring her independence.
[…] if she’s all that liberated, why doesn’t she go down to the bar and pick someone up? I’m sure it’s entirely possible. It’s just that most women don’t do it. And why don’t they do it?’ she asked, with a sudden return of assurance. ‘It’s because they prefer the old myths, when it comes to the crunch. They want to believe that they are going to be discovered, looking their best, behind closed doors, just when they thought that all was lost, by a man who has battled across continents, abandoning whatever he may have had in his in-tray, to reclaim them. -From Hotel Du Lac, page 27-
The tension in the novel comes from the characters’ releationships to each other which ultimately help Edith to make a momentous decision.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Brookner writes with elegant, passionate prose and leaves the reader feeling deeply satisfied.