I’m apparently on this 20th century British women’s literature kick (never a bad thing), because I followed up the splendid Jane and Prudence with Anita Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, a novel that gets mentioned A LOT when you think about 20th century British literature or contemporary British literature. I figured after hearing about it from several scholarly sources that it was high time I read it, right? Right.
As it turns out, Hotel du Lac is also a smashing novel. We first meet Edith, a disgraced single novelist (we don’t know why at first, and I won’t tell you, so you can be unspoiled) who is sent to this obscure hotel/watering area to think about what she’s done. While she’s there, Edith meets several other people in various stages of her life–the mysterious woman who’s always sneaking food to her dog, the elderly woman who seems in and yet not of the group, a mother-daughter duo who seem young and old all at once, and the polite but dispassionate Mr. Neville who tries to force Edith out of her routine. As a novelist, Edith tries to create the lives of the others around her, while simultaneously trying to write her book, as well as her own next chapter of life.
Brookner eloquently captures the sort of scandalized responses that emerge when a woman doesn’t exactly behave, and she also accurately depicts the kind of rigid sexual molds that women are expected to fill. Edith is an interesting, sympathetic, and engaging character. I liked her development throughout the novel, and I liked how it ended. I won’t say more, since you really need to read it.