Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The award of Britain’s most prestigious literary honor, The Booker Prize, to Brookner in 1984, for Hotel du Lac, met with a mixed reception from the critics. Those who favored the selection praised the novel for its classical style and form and for the sensitivity and wit of its perception.

Others, while admiring the technical qualities of the book, thought that it was rather lightweight in comparison with the other short-listed novels, and some complained that the judges, by making a safe and traditional choice, had failed to encourage experiment and innovation. The novel was broadly accepted as Brookner’s finest work to date, with a tighter structure and firmer sense of purpose than before.

Brookner’s protagonists are usually lonely, fastidious women who watch life from the sidelines, envying and yet despising women with fewer scruples who achieve their own kind of success. Several, like Edith in Hotel du Lac, are writers who dream out their lives through their novels, but Edith is more resilient than her forerunners. The open ending of Hotel du Lac indicates plenty of difficulties ahead but suggests that Edith has already found the inner strength to make difficult decisions about her future.

Written in a period when feminist writing was in the ascendancy, Hotel du Lac is a deliberate retreat from, and a gentle challenge to, the prevailing mood among women writers in the early 1980’s.