The book is essentially about Edith Hope; she is the only character whose mind is fully explored. The reader can evaluate her as she at first sees herself, as she believes her friends see her, as Mr. Neville sees her, and as she eventually sees herself in the light of her experiences at the hotel.
Despite Edith’s unassuming and self-effacing persona, she privately believes that she has inherited her father’s strength of character; by the end of the book, however, she is not too sure. Having suffered emotional neglect from her mother, she yearns for love—for the kind of domestic love she has experienced in little snatches with David, but with the security which Geoffrey had offered. Although she rejects feminist aspirations, she wants to be a free and equal partner within the romantic framework which she envisages. The unfolding of her character is full of ambiguities and contradictions which are presumably intentional; Edith is a person to argue about rather than to judge.
All the rest of the characters are presented through her own constantly changing perceptions of them. They are vividly, even grotesquely, visualized, but not deeply analyzed; they exist as grist for the mill of her introspection, helping her to confront her own emotional problems through negative example.
Madame de Bonneuil, who seems at first to be a rather gross bourgeoise, turns out to be a desperately lonely aristocrat who has been ruthlessly turned out of her splendid mansion across the lake by her son and his arrogant wife. Monica looks like a bored, high-born sophisticate but is in fact a fortune hunter who has succeeded in marrying a titled Englishman and is...
(The entire section is 686 words.)