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Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner

Hotel Du Lac (original 1984; edition 1984)

by Anita Brookner

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Title:Hotel Du Lac
Authors:Anita Brookner
Info:Jonathan Cape (1984), Hardcover
Collections:Your library

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Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (1984)

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My faithful listeners/readers are well-aware of my love for the Man Booker Prize collection of novels. I first discovered this treasure trove of literary works when I came across Anita Brookner’s prize-winner, Hotel du Lac. On this, the sixth anniversary of Likely Stories, I return to the author of the first novel I reviewed.

Anita Brookner was born in Herne Hill, a suburb of London. She was the only child of Newson Bruckner, a Polish immigrant to Britain, and Maude Schiska, a singer whose father had emigrated from Poland and founded a tobacco factory. Maude changed the family's surname to Brookner because of anti-German sentiment in Britain. Anita Brookner had a lonely childhood, although her grandmother and uncle lived with the family, and her parents, secular Jews, opened their house to Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution during the 1930s and World War II. Brookner was educated at the private James Allen's Girls' School. In 1949 she received a BA in History from King's College London, and in 1953 a doctorate in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. Brookner has not married, but took care of her parents as they aged.

This wonderfully introspective novel traces the journey of “Edith Hope, a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name,” -- as Brookner labels her -- has committed a social faux pas of immense proportions. Her friend Penelope bundles her off for a month at the end-of-season to Hotel du Lac in Switzerland. There she wanders around the lake, works on her latest novel, and makes the acquaintance of several denizens of the sparsely occupied hotel.

Brookner writes, “The result of all this was to re-open in Edith’s mind the question of what behavior most becomes a woman, the question around which she had written most of her novels, the question she had attempted to argue with Harold Web [her publisher], the question she had failed to answer and which she now saw to be of the most vital importance. The excitement she thus experienced at being provided with an opportunity to study the question at first hand was if anything heightened by the fact that everything Mrs. Pusey had said so far was of the utmost triviality. Clearly there were depths here that deserved her prolonged attention” (40).

Edith immersed herself in her novel, and garnered endless thoughts and comments by the somewhat eccentric guests living out the last days of the fall season at Hotel du Lac. She slowly begins folding the experiences of others into her current novel. Slowly, she comes to a rational solution to her exile, and returns to London – wiser, more confidant, and fully in charge of her future.

This pleasant, short novel slowly reveals the peculiar reason for Edith’s exile to Switzerland, which has some significant effect on her outlook -- past, present, and future. I also recommend Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac as a great introduction to the amazingly entertaining series of Booker Prize winners. A wonderful summer, autumn, winter or spring read. 5 stars

--Jim, 8/7/15 ( )
1 vote rmckeown | Aug 7, 2015 |
An excellent story with exceptional character depictions. The writing is so well done that you might close your eyes and imagine yourself in the Hotel du Lac. At first I wondered, tried guessing, why Edith was there, in an obscure hotel on Lake Geneva just before they close up for winter. Alone, with fellow guests with whom she has nothing in common. They cannot even supply grist for her writing. This is a subtle story where very word is to be savoured, every description relished. Highly recommended. ( )
  VivienneR | May 5, 2015 |
Such was the stunning imagery of the Swiss lakes in this novel, I feel like I've just been on a 2 day mini-break.

This short novel (a Booker winner in the 1980s) centres on the character of Edith Hope, a moderately successful romantic novelist who has been banished to a hotel by a Swiss lake at the end of season until an embarrassment at home blows over. The story that unfolds is predominantly that of her observances and relations with the 5 other main guests, and her introspection of the disappointing life of spinsterhood that awaits when she returns home.

I found this to be a wonderful book - beautifully written, with evocative descriptions of the old-fashioned hotel and lake, and amusing and memorable characters. There is an air of melancholy to the story, but it's peppered with enough dry humour to make it a warm and poignant observation. As the main character is a writer, her observance of the lives of the other female guests is sharp and insightful, and I felt that Brookner brought the book to a great conclusion.

This is another of those quiet books that is all about human relationships rather than explosive plot, but it is fantastically executed. Written in a style reminiscent of the best classic novels, to quote from the Observer on the front of the book jacket "A classic... a book which will be read with pleasure a hundred years from now". ( )
6 vote AlisonY | Apr 13, 2015 |
The elegance of Jane Austen...in the 1980s, 6 March 2015

This review is from: Hotel du Lac (Kindle Edition)
It's the end of the season, at the Hotel du Lac on a Swiss Lake. Novelist Edith Hope has been urged to take a break in this sanctuary, following some unfortunate event back in England - not revealed till further on in the book. Meanwhile, Edith writes letters to her married lover at home (to be posted or not?) in which she describes her fellow guests; she muses on her childhood with a 'difficult' mother, and reflects on the difference between her assured, well-dressed, married friends and herself ...in her cardigan, 'mild-looking...distant, inoffensive.' But how will Edith resolve her unhappy love life? There may be unexpected events...
As other reviewers have noted, the whole environment feels pre-War, so when certain hints make one aware that it actually is set in the 1980s, it's quite a jolt. Ms Brookner writes faultless, elegant prose, but I wasn't entirely convinced by Edith's choices, given that she was a successful woman of only thirty years ago. (One can empathise with events in Jane Austen's novels because women of that era were under very different social and financial constraints.)
Consequently the whole story didn't really work for me, despite its polished style. ( )
  starbox | Mar 5, 2015 |
A strange book; it seems dated and the protagonist seems older than 39. The language is beautiful and the characters are rich, but not enough happens for my taste. ( )
  martensgirl | Nov 29, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brookner, Anitaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Massey, AnnaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolff, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From the window all that could be seen was a receding area of grey.
A mild and scholarly man who looked like a country doctor, he disliked the more sociable aspects of his calling, but had nevertheless booked a table in a cathedral-like restaurant, where the patrons cowered in worship before the marvels to be set in front of them, and had gamely tackled the intricately coiled fillet of fish which had seemed to be the simplest item on the menu.
There here and now, the quotidian, as beginning to acquire substance. The dimension of terror that this realization brought with it - as if knowing the place too well might give her presence there some reality, some validity - was quickly palliated by the extraordinary accumulation of facts
And as most of Mrs. Pusey's sentences began with the words 'Of course', they had a range of tranquil confidence which somehow occluded any attempt to introduce an opinion of her own.
Mrs. Pusey's disposition to flirt, even when there was no one around to flirt with, was, to Edith, somehow disturbing, although it was done with such lack of inhibition that it should have appeared harmless. On those rare occasions when Mrs. Pusey was sitting alone, Edith had observed her in all sorts of attention-catching ploys, creating a small locus of busyness that inevitably invited someone to come to her aid. She would not be still or be quiet until she had captured the attention of whomever she judged to be necessary for her immediate purpose.
The sensation of being entertained by words was one which she encountered all too rarely. People expect writers to entertain them, she reflected.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679759328, Paperback)

Edith Hope (a.k.a. romance author Veronica Wilde) has been banished by her friends to a stately hotel in Switzerland. During her stay she befriends some of the other guests, each of whom has his or her own tale. Edith struggles to come to terms with her career and love--the lack, the benefits, and the meaning thereof.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Recounts the holiday of Edith Hope, meek, unmarried, and thirty-nine, who, on the mend from a disastrous love affair, becomes intimately involved with her fellow guests at the Swiss Hotel du Lac.

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