Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 960
Newly arrived at the Hotel du Lac, a tasteful, well-serviced establishment in the shadow of a thirteenth century castle in Switzerland, Edith Hope, a writer of romantic novels, contemplates the elements of her exile at the hotel. Friends had told her that she should go to the hotel for self-reflection after she had been humiliated and shamed for not showing up at her own wedding.
At the hotel, Edith composes a long letter to her married lover, David Simmonds, revealing her insecurity and loneliness. It is the end of the season; the tourists are gone, the attractions are closed. Only a few assorted guests remain. The first evening, Edith is fascinated by the entrance of the glamorous Iris Pusey and her daughter Jennifer, who acknowledge her presence with only a slight nod. Later in the salon, Edith observes Mme de Bonneuil and another guest, an extraordinarily thin woman with a small dog whom she constantly feeds. She also observes an elegant gentleman with an ironic smile. Despite these observations her fellow guests seem quite unknowable. She is unable to reach out to them socially and feels alienated and detached.
Back in her room, Edith evokes memories of her mother, a discontented and bitter woman, and also recollects her first meeting with David at the party of her friend, Penelope Milne. Edith and David had exchanged glances only, but he returned to her house later, beginning their illicit affair. Edith yearns to call him, but restrains herself.
The next morning, Edith becomes acquainted with Monica, the beautiful thin woman, who is holding her dog, Kiki. Monica says that she is at the Hotel du Lac for health reasons; later, Edith learns that Monica had been sent to Switzerland because she had been unable to produce an heir for her husband. He felt that the place would help Monica to become stronger and more likely to reproduce.
In the afternoon, the elegant gentleman, Philip Neville, suggests a walk, a welcome activity to Edith, who finds little incentive to work on her current novel and is somewhat bored. That night, as she prepares for bed, Edith hears a scream from the corridor and, fearing that Mrs. Pusey has had a heart attack, she hurries to the Puseys’ rooms. She finds Jennifer’s door open, and finds Jennifer in a rather inappropriate position on her bed, flimsily clad. Also in the room is Neville, busying himself with a newspaper. He throws something out the window, which Mrs. Pusey says is a spider.
Edith continues her friendship with Monica, and goes shopping. Edith buys a blue silk dress. She analyzes her new female relationships and questions what kind of behavior is appropriate for women, especially English women. Edith has an outing with Neville. In their long conversation, he declares that he believes one should not make an emotional investment in another person. A person should be able to do whatever he or she pleases: Selfishness is the best path. Edith contends that she prefers a shared relationship, a life of routine and companionship; nevertheless, she is attracted by Neville’s eloquence and sophistication. He tells her that what she needs is a social position and marriage. She becomes annoyed.
A birthday party is held for Mrs. Pusey, who now admits to being a surprising seventy-nine years old. After the frivolity, Edith returns to her room, sad and depressed.
Edith begins to remember the dreadful deed that led to her self-banishment. She was to have married Geoffrey Long, a kind gentleman introduced to her by Penelope. Edith was to have left her pleasant cottage and garden for a new home in Montagu Square. On the way to the registry...
(The entire section contains 960 words.)
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