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[123] Hotel Du Lac – Anita Brookner

“And now, paradoxically, in the blessed silence and dimness of her room, Editch felt her own fatigue dissolve, and the underlying unease, of which she had been intermittently aware during the writing of her letter, began to stir, to increase, to take over… The careful pretence of her days here, the almost successful tenor of this artificial and meaningless life which had been decreed for her own good by others who had no real understanding of what her own good was, suddenly appeared to her in all their futility.” (116)

dulac.jpgThe harrowing circumstances that lead Edith Hope to the sequestered Hotel Du Lac, somewhat of a sanctuary that has conquered human mishap and accidents, are not clear at the beginning. Suspense as to her reason for being there mounts as the prose gracefully details the air of discretion and tranquility of this lakeside resort, whose sparse amenities attract few visitors. Edith is a writer whose life begins to resemble the plots of her romance novels–she is plagued by relationship drama. After an outright embarrassing incident that subverts her friends’ opinion of her, condemned out of hand, she is inevitably subjected to a brief exile until she comes to her senses and makes decent repair to society for the outrage she has perpetrated.

Hoping to bask in the engulfing silence and working on a new book, she instead meets an assortment of love’s casualties and exiles. They are aggrieved women at strange juncture in their life who put up a tranquil confidence and polite aloofness so not to betray their anguish. Bits of their life are slowly revealed as they outstay their welcome toward the end of season and have no choice but to mingle with one another for company. Mrs. Pusey is an old widow who has a whim for shopping anything of the finest quality. She has a sense of assurance that occludes any attempt to introduce an opinion to her. No wonder her daughter Jennifer, who accompanies her, has yet to be married. Monica (the svelte lady with a dog), who is on an ultimatum with her husband that she has to bear a child or he will seek other arrangement. Edith notes a breakdown in her behind those giant dark glasses–bereavement. Mme. de Bonneuil is left alone in the hotel because her son considers her manner too rustic to be allowed to live under the same roof as his wife. Edith herself ruefully reflects upon her affair with David Simmonds, a married man who is the root of her emotional turbulence.

Fed up with all the emotional investment and unrequited love that torture herself and the souls gathering at the hotel, at the solicitous pursuit of a worldly man who coaxes her to unleash the capacity of mischief and pleasure, she entertains the possibility of a partnership based on esteem and not love. Snagged by her conscience, she searches her heart through the undiagnosed feelings, and asks if a liaison free of any romantic expectations and feelings would bring her happiness. The journey coming to terms with her spiritual depth really glorifies the theme of hope in time of despair. I’m not in a position to judge the form of partnership (open relationship, no-strings-attached relationship) but am glad that Edith makes the decision she does, after a twist.

I love the sheer beauty of the prose and its grace of style. Much of the prose focuses on creating that sulking atmosphere that hovers over these characters. The seriousness of their respective predicaments in life has not only been material for satire, ridicule, and amusement among themselves, but also makes me aware that love does come with a price–courage and conviction.

11 Responses

  1. Brookner has been on my reading list for a while. Your posts have given this book the edge in which book of hers to actually read. Is this the book of hers you’d recommend over any of the others?

  2. I read Visitors and enjoyed it.

    Matt, please check out my blog later. I need your advice.

  3. Hmmm….

    I’m going to have to find a copy of this one….

  4. She reminds me of Somerset Maugham, whom you like very very much. This story sounds very good and appealing. I’ll go get this one.

  5. Wonderful review Matt. I loved this book. Have you tried any other Brookner novels? I have several and just haven’t gotten around to them. I hope they’ll be as good.

  6. This was my first Brookner, I’ve read several more and enjoyed them all but I think this is my favorite.

  7. mapelba:
    This is my first Brookner book. I picked this out of random because the premises (hotel setting) is very appealing. I love her style. 🙂

    Isabel:
    Oops I haven’t been surfing. I’ll go take a look. 🙂

  8. Greg:
    Judging from the grace of her style and the literary flair, I have a good feeling that you will enjoy any of her work. 🙂

    John:
    Her style does parallel to that of Maugham. Good call. 🙂

  9. iliana:
    Hotel Du Lac is my first. I’ve got Visitors, Family and Friends on my shelf. I cannot emphasize how much I like her style. 🙂

    cafeshree:
    I feel the same way you do about Hotel Du Lac. 🙂

  10. […] at the age of 53. Since then she has published a novel approximately every year. Her fourth book, Hotel du Lac, published in 1984, won the Booker […]

  11. […] J. M. Coetzee Life & Times of Michael K (South Africa) 1984 Anita Brookner Hotel du Lac (UK)* Review 1985 Keri Hulme The Bone People (New Zealand) 1986 Kingsley Amis The Old Devils (UK) 1987 Penelope […]

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