Hotel du Lac, Anita Brookner, 1984
Brookner died last year at 88 after writing this Booker Prize winning novel 30 years ago. The story of Edith Hope takes place at a Swiss hotel on Lake Geneva where she flees after walking away from the altar where she was to be wed. A writer of romantic best-selling novels, Hope takes to a quiet and stuffy hotel where, near the end of the season, there is a small contingent of off-center guests—the ancient and abandoned Madame Bonneuil, the overblown and wealthy Mrs. Pusey and her 39 year old childish daughter, Jennifer, the anorexic and beautiful Monica with her dog Kiki, and the cool and outrageous Peter Neville. Brookner manages to make this very boring place and group into quite an interesting and insightful story about life choices, identity, disappointment, and settling. Her prose is quietly lovely and spot on, e.g. she describes the Hotel as decorated in ‘veal-colored’ drapes and wallpaper. Educated at the Courtauld and named as the first woman to be the Slade Professor at Cambridge, she came honestly to her outsider’s view of fitting into modern society from a family of transplanted German Jews. She never married.