Monday, July 28, 2008

Hotel Du Lac

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner was originally published in 1984. My hardcover copy has 184 pages. In Hotel Du Lac, Edith Hope is an unmarried British romance writer who writes under a pseudonym. Edith's friends have coerced her into taking an unexpected vacation at the Hotel Du Lac in Switzerland at the end of the season. She is expected to contemplate her life after a recent social disgrace, which is not immediately revealed to us, and then return to England after a proper amount of time has passed. She spends her days at the Hotel writing letters, working on her new novel, going for walks, and socializing with the few remaining, mostly female, guests. She also reflects, endlessly, about the events that brought her to this point in her life.

Hotel Du Lac won the 1984 Booker Prize, which is the reason I read it, and, perhaps the only reason I finished it. In the description of the book on the cover the last sentence claims that, "Brookner spins an enthralling tale around a classic question: 'Why love?' " My feelings were more along the lines of, "Why did this win the Booker?" I found it way too atmospheric and brooding. While there is no doubt that Brookner can write, the prose can be long-winded and the sentences overwrought. (Note the quote examples below of single sentences.) With the slow start to this novel, I was hoping that Hotel Du Lac would be a satire or there would be an interesting plot twist. It isn't and there isn't. The novel is basically a tired, mediocre plot full of one-dimensional characters. The only redeeming virtue is Brookner's writing ability. Rating: 2.9


"For it was late September, out of season; the tourists had gone, the rates were reduced, and there were few inducements for visitors in this small town at the water's edge, whose inhabitants, uncommunicative to begin with, were frequently rendered taciturn by the dense cloud the descended for days at a time and then vanished without warning to reveal a new landscape full of colour and incident: boats skimming on the lake, passengers at the landing stage, an open air market, the outline of the gaunt remains of a thirteenth-century castle, seams of white on the far mountains, and on the cheerful uplands to the south a rising backdrop of apple trees, the fruit sparkling with emblematic significance." pg. 7

"Edith Hope, a writer of romance 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 unpopulated place, at this slowly darkening time of the year, when she should have been home..." pg. 8

"And no doubt after a curative stay in this grey solitude (and I notice that the leaves of that plant are quite immobile) I shall be allowed back, to resume my peaceable existence, and to revert to what I was before I did that apparently dreadful thing, although, frankly, once I had done it I didn't give it another thought." pg. 9


Wendy said...

Well, you are certainly not alone - I know a few readers who also felt as you did about this book. I really enjoyed it though (my review is here if you are interested). It is a very introspective novel - more about the internal growth of the main character rather than any external "plot" which is what I think puts a lot of people off. Thanks for sharing your review!

Lori L said...

I can certainly appreciate your positive reaction to the book. The writing itself is very good. Part of my problem is that I didn't actually like Edith or any of the other characters. I kept wanting to tell her to grow up and think for herself. On the other hand, since most of the book consists of Edith's thoughts, I guess I'm left with the simple fact that I didn't find her thoughts interesting.