Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac
Anita Brookner

This tells the tale of Edith Hope, a guest at a Swiss hotel of the book title. The first time we encounter her she's writing a letter to a man named David, describing the hotel and the apparently abrupt departure from England that she went through. We also learn that Edith is a romantic fiction writer who publishes under an assumed name. Either that or Edith's her assumed name. Gee, this really sounds like I'm rambling about it.

Nearing winter there are only a handful of guests at the hotel. There's the rich and elegant Mrs. Pusey and her daughter Jennifer who both love to shop. There's Monica with her dog named Kiki who both love to eat. And then there's the mysterious and handsome Mr. Neville who apparently has his eyes set on Edith.

As she gets to know the guests and muses about their apparently screwed up lives Edith has no choice but to face up her own mess, why she was forced into exile and what she would do afterwards.

Since I am not at liberty to say what her mess was, I can only add that this is a thoroughly engaging and thoughtful read. Partly about desires and the choices that we make. Partly about settling down or wanting to settle down. Partly about myths on love, marriage and being who we want to be. A lot of complicated issues deftly brought out with this story that is well-written and to the point.

Consider the following train of thoughts:
"And anyway, if she's all that liberated, why doesn't she go down to the bar and pick someone up? I'm sure it's entirely possible. It's jsut that most women don't do it. And why don't they do it?" she asked, with a sudden return of assurance. "It's because they prefer the old myths, when it comes to the crunch. They want to believe that they are going to be discovered,looking their best behind closed doors,just when they thought that all was lost, by a man who has battled across continents, abandoning whatever he may have had in his in-tray, to reclaim them. Ah! If only it were true," she said, breathing hard, and spearing a slice of kiwi fruit which remained suspended on her fork as she bent her head and thought this one out.

No, I don't love you. But you have got under my guard. You have moved and touched me, in a way in which I no longer care to be moved and touched. You are like a nerve that I had managed to deaden, and I am annoyed to find it coming to life. I shall do my utmost to kill it off again as soon as possible. After all, I am not in the business of losing my centrality.

Lovely, lovely words. More like a real-life unfairy tale. Whatever that means. Heartbreaking and true. And I could read the book over and over again and still be mesmerized by it. Although of course I needed the two weeks or so to finally recover from it and post something. Now I think I'd like to read more of Ms. Brookner.

This is the sixth book I read for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. I think I'm forgetting the list I made already but hopefully I still have time to finish them off. Hotel du Lac won the Booker Prize in 1984.