Hotel du Lac, the winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1984, is Anita Brookner’s fourth novel, which was preceded by several books on artists and art history. Born in London of Polish-Jewish parents, she studied French literature at King’s College London and art and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she taught for twenty-five years before retiring in 1988. She was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1990.
Hotel du Lac is a novel of its time. The feminist and women’s rights movements had won many battles for women by the 1970’s, but most women in the next decade were still struggling for recognition and position and still dependent upon men for their identities. This was an era in which women questioned the institution of marriage, wondered whether an “open marriage” was possible or perhaps even preferable, and wondered if being single could not bring contentment. It also was an era of rampant materialism and acquisitiveness.
The structure of Hotel du Lac is linear, beginning with Edith’s arrival at the hotel and ending with her departure. Except for the incident with the alleged spider in Jennifer’s room and for the intrusion of Alain, also in Jennifer’s room, the slim plot consists of Edith’s analyses of the other guests and her conversations with Philip Neville. The voice is Edith’s alone.
The artist’s eye of the author is evident throughout. From the first paragraph, as the protagonist Edith Hope looks out upon the grey garden of the hotel, followed by the fog rising from the lake and the dreary weather as fall passes into winter, Brookner paints pictures that seem to parallel the interior landscape of her narrator.
The story has five beautifully delineated single women. Mrs. Pusey is a wealthy widow, close to eighty years old, who is...
(The entire section is 767 words.)