Tony's Reviews > Hotel Du Lac

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner
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Dec 31, 09

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in December, 2009

Brookner, Anita. HOTEL DU LAC. (1984). ****. This was Ms. Brookner’s fourth novel, and won the Booker Prize in its year of publication. As seems to be the case with her books, the protagonist is a woman, Edith Hope. She is “in disgrace,” and has been hurried off to a proper Swiss hotel, Hotel du Lac, to think things over and take charge of her life. She is a writer of romance novels under a pen name and has done very well at it. We don’t learn what her ‘disgrace’ is until about halfway through the book, but it doesn’t seem to matter. She goes to the hotel – under the pressure from her friends – thinking that she will use the time to work on her latest book. She starts off with the best intentions, but soon begins to observe the other guests. It is end of the season, and the other guests, all women, seem to have been coming to this hotel for years on end. The first two women she meets are Iris Pusey, a good looking woman of indeterminate age who is obviously well off, and her daughter, Jennifer. There is a synbiotic relationship between the two that Edith takes a while to figure out. Mrs. Pusey is a widow, left in excellent circumstances by her dead husband. When Edith finds out how old she is, she is shocked. Mrs. Pusey is 79-years old. Her daughter, then, who looks like a young girl, though a little portly, must then be about 39. The two are mutually dependent for their respective lives and views of themselves. Next there is a tall, blonde woman who looks like a fashion model. Her name is Monica. Monica is disdainful of all the other guests and keeps company only with her dog, Kiki. Edith soon learns that Monica is staying at the hotel because of an ‘eating’ problem that she has. She manages to stir up her dinner on her plate, but ultimately ends up giving most of it to Kiki. Monica is extremely proud of her figure, believing that it alone embodies her true worth. There are others, and all of them fall under Edith’s magnifying glass. We do finally learn of the ‘disgrace’ experienced by Edith, but it doesn’t really have a bearing on the novel. What the novel is really about is how Edith manages to learn more about herself and her approach to life, which she ultimately validates, through comparison to the lives of those around her. She learns not to be ashamed or afraid of the directions she is taking or of the fact that she doesn’t think like other people. She learns, too, that it isn’t worth the effort to build a false persona to impress the people around her, because they aren’t worth impressing. Recommended.
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