Emma Tennant James Brockway - Essay

James Brockway

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Emma Tennant] has added another sample of her own brand of sci-fi fantasy to her first two, The Time of the Crack and The Last of the Country House Murders. Somewhere she has referred to her 'trilogy', so that Hotel de Dream may be intended as the last of her laughing-gas murders. Be that as it may, plenty of old English attitudes get murdered in this latest offering of hers and in her own wittily and elegantly lethal way too. Perhaps one needs to read the book more than once to catch the relevance of its satire on every point and to make up one's mind what it is really all about (apart from being a different way of writing a novel). On the surface at least, it is clear enough all the same.

Yet even if it weren't, the book's chief attractions would remain unimpaired: the agility and ebullience of the humour, the sense of the absurd in human beings—in most of us, at least, and in all the inmates of Mrs. Routledge's tatty boarding house in Kensington, her Hotel De Dream—and, best of all, the stylish verve of the writing.

Here the reader lives mainly in the dreams of the characters, but since this is a form of science fiction, dream life and waking life get muddled up, while the dreams of the various characters also start to invade one another. The opportunities this offers for satirical fun and fantasy are naturally as good as unlimited, but also the opportunities to build up fantastic scenes,...

(The entire section is 593 words.)