Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Hotel du Lac

The following review of Hotel du Lac was written by Mel at The Reading Life. I inadvertantly left it out of the IABD review cavalcade in July. My apologies to Mel.

My first Anita Brookner was A Start in Life/The Debut. The second was Leaving Home. I totally loved and think I understood the first line of A Start in Life "Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature".

I liked both of these novels. The people in her novels all seem to lead very careful well ordered lives. It is a world where one spends hours wondering if it would be a better idea to wear a light or a dark camel colored coat to tonight's lecture at the British Museum on 14th century Baltic ceramics. The novels of Brookner are Northern cold climate books, not works of the Tropics.

The Hotel du Lac won the 1984 Brookner Prize. The story line is pretty straight forward. It centers on Edith Hope, a well known writer of romance novels who has been sent to a hotel in Switzerland to recover from a scandal about her own personal life.

I must say that what I liked best about Hotel du Lac, I really loved it, was the lengthy description of Hotel du Lac itself. It seems like a wonderful place to be a regular guest. The staff and the other guests were just marvelously done.

I did a bit of a study of the first two or three pages of the novel. I think we can learn a lot from some of Brookner's word choice. The word "grey" appears three times in the first paragraph. A character is described as "tight lipped", "older" and "apologetic". A personality is referred to as "dim" and "low". The room of the hotel is done in colors of over cooked veal. The bulbs are weak and twinkle drearily. There are 100s of these expressions throughout the novel. Brookner, is painting a picture for us. Brookner was an art historian before she became (at age 53) a novelist. The use of all these colors is very much part of the tone of the book. I can see why some find her work almost oppressive.

There is a kind of a surprise ending at the close of Hotel du Lac. I will not give it away other but I really liked it and was a bit shocked I admit.

I enjoyed this book. It is a work of very subtle intelligence. The descriptions of the hotel are really wonderfully done. The people we meet in the hotel are interesting and it is fun to get to know them.

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