Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner


251665In the novel that won her the Booker Prize and established her international reputation, Anita Brookner finds a new vocabulary for framing the eternal question “Why love?” It tells the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a psudonym. When her life begins to resemble the plots of her own novels, however, Edith flees to Switzerland, where the quiet luxury of the Hotel du Lac promises to resore her to her senses.

But instead of peace and rest, Edith finds herself sequestered at the hotel with an assortment of love’s casualties and exiles. She also attracts the attention of a worldly man determined to release her unused capacity for mischief and pleasure. Beautifully observed, witheringly funny, Hotel du Lac is Brookner at her most stylish and potently subversive.


From the first chapter I wanted to like this book – there’s some beautiful prose in here.

It was to be supposed that beyond the grey garden… lay the vast grey lake, spreading like an anesthetic towards the invisible further shore.

Sometimes it bordered on comical:

Edith Hope, a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name…

The sad thing is that I had a hard time fully connecting to the story. It all felt hollow, which may be partly intentional as Edith is feeling a bit gutted herself. The plot is very slow, nearly nonexistent, and while the characters are kind of interesting they feel like shells, too.

In my head literary fiction equals “white people sitting around talking” and sadly Hotel du Lac fits that bill. There are parts I appreciate (how Edith’s past is unspun) and parts I could have done without (yet another round of tea or coffee with so-and-so). I guess I’m rating this a big, “Hmm. Enh.”