Hotel du Lac

HOTEL DU LAC is largely the story of Edith’s brief and ostensibly uneventful holiday in a quiet Swiss hotel that is preparing to shut down for the winter, but it includes flashbacks to her recent life in England. At first, she relishes the solitude, but she soon finds herself involved with some of the resort’s other guests, a bizarre assortment of the idle rich.

Most formidable among these is the seventy-nine-year-old widow Iris Pusey, who dominates everyone around her, including and especially her daughter Jennifer. At her mother’s behest, Jennifer, who, like Edith, is thirty-nine, recruits Edith into their circle as a submissive audience during meals and extravagant shopping trips. Madame de Bonneuil is an elderly, doting mother reduced to living in hotels because her daughter-in-law cannot abide her in her house. Monica suffers from an eating problem exacerbated by anxiety over her inability to produce an heir for her noble husband; except for the constant companionship of her dog, Kiki, Monica is at the hotel alone.

Philip Neville, a wealthy and fastidious businessman who has been abandoned by his wife, offers Edith the temptation of a totally new life in a loveless marriage of convenience. The question of whether she will accept and renounce forever her married lover, David Simmonds, provides the focus to Brookner’s narrative energies. Will Edith accept the uncertainties of a contingent life or choose a sanctuary from further choice?

Edith’s acute powers of observation are exceeded only by her author’s. The romantic fictions that Edith, who physically...

(The entire section is 657 words.)