Hotel du Lac (Review)

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Hotel du Lac
Anita Brookner, 1984
184 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August 2007

One of Brookner’s earliest works, and some think her finest, this slender book contains some very beautiful and very funny writing.

Edith Hope, a romance novelist, who writes “under a more thrusting name” (Oh, that is so good!), finds herself exiled to a posh but sedate Swiss hotel. She has committed a serious social infraction, though we don’t learn exactly what till about three-quarters of the way through.

The book opens as Edith, newly arrived at the hotel, peers out her bedroom window onto a gray “anesthetic” landscape, blanketed in mist or fog, which conceals major landmarks. Of course, the view subtly parallels her state of mind and her degree of self-knowledge, and both landscape and personal vision will attain clarity by the novel’s end.

In one rather funny luncheon with her editor, Edith holds forth on the tortoise and the hare: she writes her love stories, she claims, for tortoises (read "losers" here), and in her books the tortoise always wins. But that's only in books...and in Aesop's Fable! In real life, says Edith, it’s the hare who wins—every damn time. And by this book's end, we're not sure whether Edith herself is a tortoise or hare—whether she wins or loses.

That’s part of the charm of this work; the loose strings aren’t so neatly tied-up at the end, and we’re left to wonder. This is a sophisticated piece of writing, and I think book clubs will have fun figuring out exactly what will happen after the last line, in fact, what is even meant by the last line.

See our Reading Guide for Hotel du Lac.

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