Pseudonymic writer of romantic novels, Edith arrives at her Swiss hotel on lac Leman. She had been sent by friends to extract her from a situation, which at first is not clear.  The month ahead looks bleak and long.

With a keen eye, she observes her fellow guests, almost all female: beautiful, slender Monica with an eating disorder masked as indulgence of her tiny dog; a deaf, lame dowager ousted from her own home by a churlish daughter-in-law; a narcissistic mother and daughter whose amiable but inane conversation slowly begins to engulf Edith. These encounters ought to be fodder for her writing and they lead Edith to contemplate her own relationships with parents, aunts, women, men, and love.

Part of the narrative is conveyed in detailed letters to “dearest David,” letters that, we later learn, are never sent. Edith and David must be lovers, but soon it emerges that he is married and intent on staying that way; their affair is secret – possibly even to David. Even later, the reader discovers that Edith was on the verge of marriage to sensible, kind, older Geoffrey. But at the last minute, she left him literally standing at the altar--to his horror and that of those friends who have since packed her off to Switzerland.

A well turned out, wealthy male guest appears on the scene, Phillip Neville. He guesses Edith’s identity and challenges her to be less romantic and more selfish. He points out the value of marriage in terms of career, social standing, and simple companionship. Then he startles her by proposing. No love exists between them, they both admit. Nevertheless, Edith is on the verge of accepting his offer and his crass, unromantic view of the world, when a tedious, banal observation changes everything. She opts for freedom in romantic solitude.


Elegant, stylish writing characterizes this novel of social mores that turns on fundamental questions about how best to survive in life and work: alone or accompanied? believing in passionate love, or recognizing convenience? as a listener or as a player? with youthful optimism or seasoned realism?

The character sketches are superb. Deeper insights into the vicissitudes of aging and loneliness are provided by miniature crises and dilemmas of politesse that occur to strangers caught in the same time and place. They are both comic and profound. The pathologies are product of relationships with other people.

This book typifies others of Brookner’s novels, in that it addresses the issues of single women, like herself, who are the dutiful offspring of German/ Austrian immigrants.


Hotel du Lac won the Booker prize.



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