Thursday, August 25, 2011

HOTEL DU LAC by Anita Brookner

Edith Hope is vacationing at a sedate Swiss hotel, waiting from some sort of scandal to die down. Does it have to do with her affair with a married man? She writes romance novels under a pseudonym and therefore remains anonymous to the other guests who are fans of her work but not opposed to voicing the occasional criticism. One gentleman there is on to her, and he strikes up a friendship with Edith, who is intrigued by a very wealthy mother/daughter pair. Another woman, with an eating disorder and a small dog to help disguise it, seeks out Edith's company also. For someone trying to keep to herself and complete her next novel, Edith is somewhat in demand and becomes privy to all sorts of gossip and liaisons. As it turns out, she is too distracted/dispressed to write anything but letters to her lover that she may or may not be mailing. This is one of those slow-moving, nuanced and very British novels, with a spinster heroine and a skeleton in the closet, which is not scandalous at all by American standards. Ultimately, Edith has a decision to make—return home and make amends for her past behavior, or seize an opportunity that's not all that appealing but has its advantages. A chance observation serves as a wake-up call, clarifying her options and helping her realize what is important to her. The book feels like it belongs on a live stage, with its confined setting and stifling group of characters, and was apparently adapted as a play for television.


Anonymous said...

Anita Brookner saved my life, a decade ago. Her novels vividly describe an isolated life, that I took great strength & comfort from them. I'm an American man in my 50s, a broadcaster, who boxed himself into a job that provided isolated as little contact with others as an AB heroine's situation in a book store without customers.

I have read all of her books once, and several two or three times. This is NOT one of my favorites, although I like it. Try Falling Slowly; Incident in the Rue Laugier (sp?); Bay of Angels.

My situation has changed; I often feel as if I have MORE life than I can handle. But AB is holy writ to me, and I owe her a debt of gratitude. No one can surpass her ability to describe anonymity, isolation and immeasurable distance from others.

Patti's Pages said...

Our book club moderator says that fiction teaches us how to live. Thanks so much for reinforcing my belief in the power of fiction and for the reading suggestions.