The Little Hotel is narrated by Madame Bonnard, who recounts the events that occur at her fourth-class hotel in a Swiss resort. While the eccentric activities of the Mayor of B. are her initial focus, the novel actually concerns the relationship between Lilia Trollope and Robert Wilkins, who maintain an unconvincing pose as “cousins.” Although both are unattached, Robert refuses to marry Lilia not only because he promised his mother that he would never marry, so his inheritance is at risk, but also because he simply enjoys the existing situation. Lilia, whose funds Robert insists she bring out of England, begins to suspect that Robert is primarily after her money, and she regrets having put so much of it in his name, especially since he has apparently lost interest in her. (While they dine at the hotel, he reads his newspapers and simply ignores her.)
Faced with a static and futile relationship, Lilia turns to the other people at the hotel: people, she points out, with whom she would never have chosen to associate. Mrs. Powell, a rabidly racist American who believes Lilia to be “Asiatic” (Lilia’s mother was in fact Dutch-Javanese) deliberately snubs her and determines to drive her from the hotel. Miss Chillard, a former hotel guest who has since returned to the hotel, has money but pleads poverty, thereby enabling her to exploit the generous Bonnards and to appeal to Lilia’s compassion. Mrs. Blaise, who initially serves as Lilia’s...
(The entire section is 593 words.)