Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner

I don’t know if I included this in the photo’s from yesterdays blog (see below) but I also bought ‘Hotel du Lac’ by Anita Brookner as I am slowly but surely determined to read through all of the Man Booker Winners and this was one that I didn’t own already. It being so short and having heard very mixed reviews I sadly admit that I wanted to read this straight away to ‘get it out the way’ which just goes to show you should always start a book with an open mind as you might just find a diamond before you. 

I absolutely loved Anita Brookner’s 1984 (I was two when this won) Man Booker Winner, seriously loved it. I can easily imagine this becoming a slightly underground classic in the future as the characters and story are just wonderful. Hotel Du Lac is the story of Edith Hope as she takes a break from the world and her writing of mildly successful romance novels. She has, it unfolds, been sent away by her best friend Penelope Milne who she is in disgrace of (along with a fair amount of her social circle) and would only be forgiven if she went to Switzerland to “disappear for a decent length of time and come back older, wiser and properly sorry”. If you loved that line, like I did, then you will love all of the wording and wit Anita Brookner provides throughout a mere 180 pages.

Of course you then want to find out just what disgraceful act Edith has been apart of and as the novel and her character develop you soon realise it could be more than one thing. Once she is in the hotel though you also want to learn about all the stories of the other random guests who are staying in Switzerland ‘out of season’.

There is the fabulous Lady X or ‘the lady with the noisy dog who smoked endlessly and ate only ice cream and cake’ who we learn to love and learn her real name is Monica, sent by her husband to stop eating and loose weight. We also meet Madame De Bonneuil who has been dumped there by her son who visits once a week whilst he and his wife, who hates her, spend all her money and live in her fabulous mansion. There are the fabulous and incredibly wealthy Iris and her daughter Jennifer Pusey who have come merely to shop… endlessly, and drink unbelievable quantities of champagne and gossip. They also like to think they are talk of the town and whilst Iris is her daughter Jennifer “inexpressive as a blank window” doesn’t seem to be following her mothers lead, though there is a dark twist where she is concerned.  

One final quest is Mr Neville who claims himself ‘a romantic’ and thinks he knows just what Edith needs to sort her life out if only he can show her. As the obvious romance story evolves between the two characters I was initially touched and then started to get very disappointed in where the novel might be leading. I shouldn’t have worried as Brookner pulls out a very final and very clever twist as well as finally letting us in on Edith’s past.

I actually hugged this book when I had finished it and really wanted to start the whole thing all over again. It reminded me of the wit of lethal wit, scandal and romance of a Nancy Mitford novel only with modern twists and turns. It also looks at the roles of women at a time, I am guessing it is set in the late sixties early seventies though you are never sure, when rules and ways were changing and they had more options yet weren’t really meant to use them.

All in all this was a short riveting funny and clever novel and what in my eyes isn’t what a Man Booker Winner is normally like. If the judges were to choose a ‘Man Booker Dozen’ filled with novels like this then I would read the whole long list without stopping. There will be more on this year’s long list another though as am doing something special the day before it is announced, so watch this space.

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30 Comments

Filed under Anita Brookner, Books of 2009, Man Booker, Penguin Books, Review

30 responses to “Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner

  1. Oh Simon, your enthusiasm is infectious! I love that you hugged the book upon finishing and that you describe it as a “diamond”.

    I was actually going to read the book this week anyway (I randomly read the opening six pages via Amazon search inside and had to borrow it from the library immediately) but now I’m in a dither whether to read that before ‘The Other Hand’, which is patiently waiting at my side to be started today… dilemmas. Which would you suggest? Since they were both loved by you and you have read them both recently and influenced my quandary then I think it is only apt that you choose for me!

    • Hmmmm, that’s a quandry and a half! I would say read Hotel du Lac first for two reasons.
      The first is that its shorter and so you can do it in a few sittings. Secondly, its from the library and so you can take it back and swap it for something else quicker. Once I am back up and about (am still sick) I have a date with my library as have ordered some Persephone’s for your reading week!

      I will say Hotel du Lac seems a marmite book, I have heard some dreadful reviews from people I know, I loved it. Its very Mitford and oooh I just liked it! The Other Hand is equally wonderful in totally different ways, they are chalk and cheese!

      • I can see the marmite effect working it’s magic!

        I’ve just finished this on the train home and I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy it at all. I need some time to work out exactly why – I’ll get back to you later!

  2. Hotel du Lac it is!

    I think I had to have that decision made for me. I couldn’t decide based solely on the library logic as I simply can’t borrow any more books until I finish the ones I have (speaks the girl who is collecting a request this afternoon although it is one I have been waiting for three months until it was my turn).

    One of my friends described it as “the most boring book” she had ever read but we rarely agree on books so I’m not letting that out me off!

    I am so glad that you are joining us for Persephone reading week! I am really excited about it.

    • I am really looking forward to Persephone reading week too! I am trying to find a copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (I shamefully watched the movie first) as I so want to read that and also the Woolfe book!
      Let me know how you get on with Hotel du Lac, I imagine you’ll have it done and dusted in an evening!

      • I love Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (although it is dated) and plan to read Flush during PRW.
        I read 50 pages of Hotel du Lac last night and aiming to finish it today.

  3. ‘Tis true. Hotel du Lac is a gem of a novel.

  4. I loved this book. I think I had a similar reaction when I read it – wanted to re-read it immediately, on finishing.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Book hugging is a lovely way to end a read! But I am affraid I disliked this book so much I sold it.

  6. Just to add that I sold all my Anita Brookner’s except Visitors which I prefered to all the others (my selection was only a few of her titles – can’t remember which offhand) and liked sufficiently to re-read.

    • Oh no I am sorry you didn’t like this! Or many of the Brookner books! If I see Visitors I am definately going to give it a go as would be interesting to read the one you liked the most.

  7. The style of this book—crisp, unsentimental, and riveting, reminds me of Somerset Maugham’s works. In mere 180 pages, Brookner has given us a woman who is afflicted by so entangled and conflicting of emotions. The ending was slightly surprising but I just love to see how Brookner adroitly plays out her emotion and probes her character.

    • I too loved the way she plays with her characters, well toys with them. The one thing I have noticed looking back is that actually she does stereotype the sexes somewhat but then that’s all part if the plot!

  8. I read it this year for my personal challenge of going through all Booker winners, too. I thought it was elegantly written and so refined. But I didn’t really connect with it much. I liked it but didn’t love it. I loved her new book, Strangers, more.

    Still, I thought it was really good and reminded me a bit of a female Ian McEwan.

    • Have you read all the booker winners now Claire? I thought the ones from pre-90s would be really stuffy and from this one, and Midnights Children it appears am very wrong. This book definately added to todays excitement over the 2009 longlist that’s for sure.

      • I am very excited about today’s longlist announcement! Any idea of what time it will be made at?
        I concur about the older Booker winners being great pre-90s; Midnight’s Children is a personal favourite.

  9. Most Booker winners and longlisters leave me wondering why. Like there is some grand literary point the judges picked up on, but which I miss.

    On the other hand I have never read a Brookner that I haven’t loved. Out of her 24 novels I only have three left to read. The good news is that I would love to read them all again so I am not too worried about catching up with her output.

    I would love to find a current picture of Brookner. I would love to see how she has changed since her “official” picture was taken probably 30 years ago.

    • I always think Man Bookers arent the greatest books but then when you think about some of the winners they are actually corkers. I think there should be nationwide votes for books every year where its judged by readers not a panel.

  10. Well, I cant say I loved the book all that much. In fact, the first time I took it up, I abandoned the book midway because of the sheer lack of activity and plot in the novel.

    I mustered up courage to complete the book a few months later and had to be very patient with Brookner’s style of writing all the while.

    I can understand that some character studies by Brookner are good…..but really that is about it I think…

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  14. Wanted to let you know that I just read and reviewed this book as well and also adored it — I also included your link in my post as well. Here’s the post: Coffee and a Book Chick: Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner</a

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  16. Pingback: Reading Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, for International Anita Brookner Day | Novel Insights

  17. Oh gosh, we had such different reactions to this one! I wish I’d had yours…

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