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Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner
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Hotel Du Lac (original 1984; edition 1995)

by Anita Brookner

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1,718534,132 (3.59)225
Member:marinajuric
Title:Hotel Du Lac
Authors:Anita Brookner
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: 1st Vintage Contemporaries Ed, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (1984)

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» See also 225 mentions

English (51)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
I'm not entirely sure how to review this one. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't especially enjoy it. There were moments of it that I found interesting, and overall I think the language is quite nice, but overall my feeling towards the book is one of indifference. I am not a person who has to either like or identify with a main character, but I do need to find that character compelling in one way or another, and I just didn't find that here. Combine that with a moody and slow-moving plot, and you've got a book that was a bit of an effort for me to finish. ( )
  Hanneri | Apr 25, 2014 |
bookshelves: published-1984, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, booker-winner, switzerland, love, books-about-books-and-book-shops, fraudio, lit-richer, dog-steals-the-show, midlife-crisis, newtome-author, contemporary, women, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, gr-library
Read on January 13, 2014

photo redboyhydra_zpsfe9a9108.gif

Readying this for an audio TBR busting venture, I thought I'd check out the description and look what is says in the grrramazon box:

No Internal Markings, Tight Binding. Faint Wear To Wrap Edges.

That's it. Chaos. bwhahaha

Gone are the days when fastidious goodreads librarians were hard at work for our betterment. Amazon took over and those sorely missed unpaid angels are deemed to be irrelevant by the Bezos world-eating blackhole.

Anyways, this novella length story (192 pages) is unabridged and read by Anna Massey.

Our Edith is in the dog-house and has been shuffled off, under considered direction of friends and family, to Switzerland to lie low until things die down a bit. Ostensibly, she will use this time to finish off her novel 'Beneath the Visiting Moon' however people-watching seems to take up all her mental capacity.

So Brookner sets up a tale where she can display her powers of descriptive prose, and she does it so very well that I, indeed nigh-on everyone, seem to have forgiven her this obvious conceit.

So why is this woman, Edith Hope, writer of romantic fiction, in disgrace? Reasons become clear as the story unfolds in an end-of-season, sparsely-peopled hotel in Switzerland.

Although this was published in the mid '80s this has a feel or being about thirty years earlier. I can't remember the 80s being so stifling for women. ( )
  mimal | Jan 13, 2014 |
Why this, controversially, won the 1984 Booker:
"I have managed," writes the old devil [Richard Cobb, chairman of the judges, to his friend, fellow historian Hugh Trevor-Roper], "to keep Martin Amis and Angela Carter and something something de Terán off the shortlist and manoeuvred so that BALLARD did not get the prize to the FURY of the media, the critics and Ladbrokes. So I have done a little NEGATIVE good."
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/oct/02/jane-austen-pdjames-robert-mccrum

Hotel du Lac seems like a book from the 1920s-50s, not the eighties. ... I imagined the same setting as the first part of Rebecca. Edith is a romantic novelist, an old yet naïve 39, whose friends have insisted she go abroad for a while to escape some mysterious scandal. The Hotel prides itself on its discreet insulation from modern life - so character, environment and writing are all quite appropriate for and reflective of one another. The book isn't bad as I'd often been led to believe: it's simply a small story, carefully crafted. It has a muted camp quality – waspishness; the slightly tragic / I Will Survive temperament of its heroine; irony co-existing with emotional sincerity – so I can understand one way of liking Hotel du Lac.

Yet I didn't find it all that engaging. Its horizons are so narrow. Some of Edith's complaints reminded me of myself at school: her impatience with the company of women who are only interested in shopping and gossip... but she's a healthy well-off adult living in London and hasn't managed to find any female friends who are more interesting. She prefers the company of men but has none as platonic friends for interesting conversations and only feels able to confide in one ex-lover (married throughout their involvement) in a series of unsent letters. Edith could have been interesting if it was shown how and why she'd ended up as this lonely living fossil (whose works aren't selling too well in an age of 'briefcase wielding Cosmo readers who want stories about sex' – one of the few clues that the book actually is set in the 80s) or if she had any enthusiasms, but unfortunately, as she was, she was relatively dull company. This could even be a portrait of a sort of mild depression, but one more likely to induce same in some readers than to give any insight.

I've now read more from the 1984 Booker shortlist than from any other year except 2013, and have to agree not only that BALLARD WOZ ROBBED - and also LODGE. And BARNES would have been more worthy than this too. Not that that isn't extremely well-established by now.

Why I read this:
A friend who was visiting a few weeks ago saw the book here and mentioned that a relative he was staying with for part of the summer lived very near the place where Hotel du Lac is set. Had, in fact, chosen a house just there because she liked the book so much. I didn't expect to love it myself but this seemed a prompt of sorts to read the thing over the summer.

Why I even had this book in the house:
At the beginning of first year at (secondary) school we were given a reading list which was only occasionally referred to again by teachers, but by which I set great and geeky store. The list looked quite old, having apparently started out typed on a sheet of A5, and over years photostat was made of photostat until the lettering of our copies was fragmented grey. Budding historian already, I decided to try and work out how old the list was (teachers didn't know). Hotel du Lac turned out to be the most recent book. Somewhat disappointingly the list wasn't really as old as it appeared.
A book about a hotel sounded exciting (I imagined a cast of madcap characters rather like those I'd later find in Armistead Maupin) but the blurb of this one wasn't thrilling. So I kept putting it off and putting it off until I noticed it would be short enough to read in a day. (I was so unenthusiastic that I didn't finish it in one day after all.) The narrow horizons and fusty yet somewhat confused morals of Hotel du Lac did remind me quite a bit of school after all.

Read 11-12 Aug 2013. ( )
  antonomasia | Aug 15, 2013 |
” I am not a fascinating woman,” reflects Edith Hope as she sits in an out-of-season Swiss hotel trying to decide how she should make her way through life. But there is something about this quiet, plain woman who wears comfy cardigans and prefers the quietude of her garden to drinks parties and social gatherings, that makes her fellow guests gravitate towards her.

Perhaps it’s because, like her, they are all adrift; washed up at a lakeside hotel that provides solace to those in need by sticking stolidly to its traditions.

Edith is a romantic novelist who’s been exiled to the hotel after an indiscretion that outraged her friends. The other guests include the beautiful Monica; a young woman with an eating disorder who’s been sent to the hotel by her husband along with an ultimatum — sort herself out and produce a son and heir otherwise she’ll be history. Then there’s Madame de Bonnueil, an elderly widow who is despatched to the hotel every summer by a daughter in law who considers her a nuisance. And finally the overbearing, self-indulgent Mrs Pusey and her curiously clinging daughter who spend their lives flitting around the shopping capitals of the world in pursuit of exquisite hand embroidered lingerie thanks to the generosity of the long-dead but not lamented Mr Pusey.

They confide in Edith and use her as a fresh audience for anecdotes told repeatedly to anyone who will listen. Edith observes them all, as she drifts around the hotel and its environs, trying but failing to write her newest novel and all the while writing to the mysterious ‘David’. Brookner teases her readers with suggestions that a secret affair with this married man was the ’unfortunate lapse’ that landed Edith in Switzerland. It’s not until the last few chapters that we learn the truth.

This is a novel that’s written in a clean and unadorned form of prose which yet manages to captures the atmosphere of this retreat and the foibles of its guests. Nothing much happens for most of the book. Only the arrival of the single, wealthy businessman Mr Neville disturbs the Edith’s routine of solitary walks along the lake shake, much partaking of cake in the one and only cafe in town, and then dinner in the hotel.

Mr Neville succeeds in penetrating Edith’s facade, challenging her presumption that her only options for the future are spinsterhood or a marriage based on the romantic ideal of love that feature in her novels. What he offers her is a third way. He needs the kind of wife who will never cause a scandal and take great of his home and especially his collection of famille rose dishes. In return she will gain a recognised social position giving her the freedom to behave as she wishes, protected from castigation and recrimination.

“You will find that you can behave as badly as you like. As badly as everybody else like too. ….And you will be respected for it. People will at last feel comfortable with you,” he tells her.

As the basis of a relationship, it sounds more like a business transaction than a declaration of affection. Whether it’s one that Edith decides to buy into is something I’m not going to reveal. At the heart of the decision however is an interesting question about the way society views single women of a certain age and whether they can only achieve social acceptance by virtue of marriage.

The book isn’t long enough to do full justice to this theme unfortunately, nor is the resolution of Edith’s dilemma fully convincing. Are these flaws sufficient grounds for the vocal criticism which greeted the announcement that Hotel du Lac was the winner of the Booker Prize for 1984? Malcolm Bradbury called the novel ”parochial”, and absolutely not the sort of book that should have won the prize while The New Statesman called Brookner’s novel “pretentious”. Both seem unfair criticism – while Hotel du Lac doesn’t have the same depth as winners by Michael Ondaatje or Thomas Keneally or the scale of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, but it’s still a well written novel that poses challenging questions and holds the attention long after the pages are closed. ( )
1 vote Mercury57 | Aug 1, 2013 |
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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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:42 -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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