Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: Hotel du Lac

The following review of Hotel du Lac was written by Amanda at Fig and Thistle

Although I missed Anita Brookner day, I still wanted to post my thoughts on Hotel du Lac. This is my first Brookner book. I’ve always intended to read something by Brookner, but I think I was daunted by the number of books. I didn’t know where to start. I picked Hotel du Lac because it was a Booker winner.

Hotel du Lac is what I would call a quiet novel. There is a plot, but the strength of the book lies in the characters’ unspoken thoughts, observations, and motivations. The novel begins with Edith Hope — a famed romance novelist — settling in to a Swiss hotel after a socially embarrassing incident. The hotel is sparsely peopled, but the handful of hotel residents fuel the humor, emotion, and, of course, move along the plot.

This slim volume — under 200 pages — clips along at a nice pace,the wit is sharp, and the characters are intriguing…. but…… I wouldn’t say I like it. I think I certainly like Brookner’s writing. She seems to be a sort of darker Barbara Pym with bits of Elizabeth Taylor cooked in and a dash of Iris Murdoch; you know, quintessentially British and witty, but with darker emotions and an elegiac tone. Of course, I’m basing my assessment of Brookner’s writing style from one book and I should really read all of them before I start making author-recipes. I simply didn’t care for any of the characters; Edith Hope seems cold and I have a difficult time sympathizing her situation and all the other characters are obnoxious, shallow, and/or calculating.

For all my character dislikes, I simply cannot stop raving over the writing. In addition to great dialogue and some marvelous descriptive passages, I found myself really loving the phrases that seemed to pop-out. For example, the hotel corridor is described as being “vibrant with absence” (pg.13). I remember pausing my reading to mull over that phrase. It is such an apt description of that sensation that strikes out with emptiness when one is in a typically bustling place. I can certainly say that the academic library I work at is vibrant with absence in the summer months!

So yes, certainly more Brookner in my future.

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