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Hotel Du Lac ()

Booker Prize Winners (1984)

Edith Hope is a British spinster whose friends have packed her off to the Hotel Du Lac in Switzerland so that she can regroup after a horrible social disgrace, which is not immediately revealed to us.  Ms Hope it turns out is a romance novelist, writing under a pseudonym.  She spends her days at the Hotel working on her new novel, going for walks and taking tea with her colorful fellow guests and looking back at the chain of events which brought her to this place in her life.

What develops is an extended meditation on the need for love and marriage and companionship.  Ms Hope is all too passive in the face of these great issues.  As she tells her agent:

              ''People love (the story of the tortoise and the hare), especially women.
              Now you will notice, Harold, that in my books it is the mouse-like
              unassuming girl who gets the hero, while the scornful temptress with
              whom he has had a stormy affair retreats baffled from the fray, never to
              return. The tortoise wins every time. This is a lie, of course. . . . In real life,
              of course, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any
              case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market.
              Axiomatically. . . . Hares have no time to read. They are too busy winning the game.
              The propaganda goes all the other way, but only because it is the tortoise
              who is in need of consolation. Like the meek who are going to inherit the

In the end, even if she doesn't necessarily get her man, she proves to be the tortoise emerging "victorious" once again.

This is a wry, witty novel, sort of a humorous update of an E.M. Forster tale.  But it's an extremely slender story and the docility of it's central character is quite annoying.  In the concluding scenes she is rescued by a sort of Deus Ex Machina twist rather than by any personal growth or enlightenment.  But Ms Brookner is a terrific writer and the book is a brisk enjoyable read.  I just find it hard to believe that this was the best British book of 1984.


Grade: (C+)


Anita Brookner Links:

    -REVIEW : of Light Years by James Salter (Anita Brookner, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Making Things Better by Anita Brookner (Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Reading Group Guide (Random House)
    -Profile (from World and I)
    -Review from New York Times Book Review (Anne Tyler)
    -Review from New York Times (John Gross)