Original date of publication: 1984
My edition: 1986 (Dutton)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: The Strand, NYC, July 2011
When Edith Hope, a romance novelist, retreats to the Hotel du Lac in Switzerland, she goes there at the request of her friends. An "event" in her near past has led her friends to be concerned for her mental health. The story revolves around the people she meets at the hotel: a wealthy jetsetter and her grown daughter; an aristocratic beauty; and a gentleman with whom she quickly becomes friends.
It’s late August and the offseason at the Hotel du Lac, and everything seems to wilt in the heat, even the waiters in the empty salon. There’s an air of sadness pervading this novel, not helped much by the fact that Edith herself is a rather sad character. She’s introverted, morose, and rather pessimistic. Edith comes across strongly as a character, although I could identify with her a little bit. Edith certainly lives in her head a lot, so it was interesting to see how Mr. Neville and the other guests draw her out a little bit more. At the same time, I enjoyed watching her observations of her fellow hotel guests, especially considering that Edith is a writer. As such, she’s supposed to be observant, yet, for example, she has to re-guess Mrs. Pusey’s age over and over. So it’s interesting to watch how Edith’s prejudices shape how she sees the insulated world of the Hotel du Lac.
Like other readers, I was thrown off by the time frame of this book; I kept feeling it was 1950s or 60s, although I think this book was meant to be a bit timeless. The thing that dates the book, in my opinion, is everyone’s reactions to “the event:’ for the present time or even the ‘80s, when the book was published, it doesn’t seem all that shocking; in fact, many people make that kind of decision every day.
In all, this was a highly reflective book; there are some fabulous descriptions of the Hotel du Lac and the town it’s situated near. I’ve not read any of Anita Brookner’s books before, but I’ll do so again, since I thought this was an excellent book.