Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Hotel du Lac


Reading a Man Booker prize winner (1994) on the day the longlist for this year's Man Booker prize was announced was coincidental but very apt. I had intended to read the book later this week instead but Simon convinced me otherwise. Another title contributed towards my personal Man Booker challenge, for which I have already read one other title this month.

I did not love Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner as I did Disgrace. Love is a strong word and I tend to overly enthuse and effuse over books and give my heart away too freely but I did enjoy it, even if I didn't hug it upon finishing it.

I appreciated Hotel du Lac, there are wonderfully accomplished passages of beautiful writing. I was at once reminded of E. M. Forster's A Room With a View and of Alfred Hitchcock's stunning and supsense-filled thrillers, perhaps connoted by the black and white photographed cover and one scene between a man and a woman set on the sea? The writing especially in the first half of the novel wowed me.

Edith Hope, a romance novelist, has removed herself to the Hotel du Lac at the end of the season for reasons at first unknown and only hinted at. Edith writes letters to her married lover, David, during her stay and engages with the other hotel residents. At first Edith observes from a distance, people watching, and then later engages with them. Interspersed with the main timeline within the hotel are flashbacks to Edith and what occurred to prompt her enforced sojourn to Hotel du Lac.

As with the other Booker winner that I read this month Hotel du Lac concerns personal disgrace and societal embarrassment; it is about the choices we make and the subsequent repercussions we face.

"She felt as if grief and terror had been unleashed by her long night of introspection and that she must be called to account whenever and wherever damage might be done and atonement might be made."

If I gave star ratings on my reviews then this would be a 4* novel.


19 comments:

savidgereads said...

Oh no, you didnt love it did you? I so got the match wrong with this one and I do apologise. I might not recommend you so many books so hastily now hahaha. Well, lets see how you get on with The other Hand when you read it!

Paperback Reader said...

My heart wasn't invested in it, no, but I did enjoy it! Still looking forward to reading The Other Hand although I think I'll put it off until the weekend to curl up with.

StuckInABook said...

I've had this for years... will read it soon, the sooner for reading this review!

anothercookiecrumbles said...

The thing with Disgrace was, just as the plot was cruising along, we were introduced to the violence and racial attacks, which gave the book many more layers and further depth.

However, Hotel du Lac, I think, lacks this kind of depth, which is what set Disgrace apart. Don't get me wrong, I loved Hotel du Lac, but, I liked Disgrace a little bit more.

Paperback Reader said...

Simon T, I hope you enjoy it. It didn't blow me away but it is a quick read and a good book. I think I am looking for wonderful just now and few books offer that so every week and month is an adventure.

Anothercookie, I concur; Disgrace was special and was more about the horror of the human condition than the everyday of Hotel du Lac.

claire said...

I felt the same way about Hotel, I was aware that it was good and I liked it while reading, but it didn't make that much of an impact on me. Whereas Disgrace, it sent my nerves reeling throughout (in a good way).

Paperback Reader said...

I wonder whether I would have felt different, Claire, if I had read this first or if Disgrace hadn't only been two weeks ago for me but I doubt it; Hotel du Lac is good but Disgrace is a class apart.

In the closing pages of Hotel du Lac I was smiling because I thought, ah that's where Brookner is going, and it was a case of the end at times making the novel. I like feeling confident in the writer's choices and satisfied as a reader that it was the right one.

verity said...

I'm interested by your comments - do you think it was a worthy booker? From having read other Anita Brookners, which were good, but not excellent, I'm really interested to read this because I want to see what she did that made it a prize-winner...

Paperback Reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paperback Reader said...

Verity, it's a question I asked myself whilst reading and I honestly can't answer it. It pales in comparison to Disgrace and Midnight's Children but they were exceptionally good books and it is just as good, if not better, than other Booker winners I have read. For the year she won the only other shortlisted novel I have read was JG Ballard's Empire of the Sun, which has a great story and very well-written but left me cold so perhaps it was a poor year? It can happen. You should read Simon S's review that I linked to because he loved it.

savidgereads said...

I don't think you can always compare booker winners year by year 9even though I know they did with the booker of bookers) as some years it can be the best of a bad bunch. I mean look at this years there are a few books I dont think should be on there and others that should. It's all very much down to personal feelings. Hotel du Lac is so different from Disgrace etc in fact all the Man Booker winners differ greatly, and for me the writing and wit was spot on.

Simon T - I would put money on it you enjoy this one a lot!

Paperback Reader said...

Simon, I think that you are right in saying that one Booker winner should not be judged compared to others but I think that overall there is a quality of writing and subject matter that is expected of Bookers and Hotel du Lac didn't match up to others but may in general. It isn't for me to say whether she is deserving of the prize and it could be a reflection of the literature produced that year. I also think that there is a lot of politics with the Booker prize with some writers winning because they didn't win for another book and people were outraged.
I am glad that I read the book and I did enjoy it; the writing, as I said in my review, was beautiful and she is wittily observant of the characters, which I liked a lot.

farmlanebooks said...

4 stars is still quite good. I'm planning to read this very soon and will be interested to see how I feel about it.

Paperback Reader said...

Agreed, 4 stars still makes a great book. I'm interested too in seeing how your thoughts compare.

Paperback Reader said...

Interestingly (at least to me) I looked up the shortlisted titles for the Booker of Bookers (I knew Midnight's Children had won it and the Best of Booker but I didn't think about the other contenders). Disgrace was one as were Pat Barker's The Ghost Road; Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda; JG Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur; and Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist. Inconveniently I don't yet own any of these to read soon (well, I have The Ghost Road ibut it's in Glasgow so that doesn't really count).

Nymeth said...

This is more or less how I felt about it too. I appreciated the writing, the subtlety, the perceptiveness. But sadly I felt disconnected from the story the whole time.

Paperback Reader said...

Agreed, Ana; it left me feeling a little cold. Technically very well-written but I wasn't engaged and I do like to lose myself in a book.

Ashmita said...

I agree that the book is slow moving, lacks plot and action. Compared to Disgrace, Vernon God Little and Famished Road, I dont see how this book go the Booker. The author is unable to lend any extra dimension to the characters....

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Ashmita, thanks for commenting. Hotel du Lac certainly doesn't hold up to comparison and is disappointing in that respect; some of the other books are so accomplished and wonderfully written. Hotel du Lac hasn't left much of an impression, even after such a short while.