Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner
Reasons for reading: has been on my TBR list for some time; Booker Prize for the Book Awards Challenge
From the back cover: Into the rareified atmosphere of the Hotel du Lac timidly walks Edith Hope, romantic novelist and holder of modest dreams. Exiled from her home after embarrassing herself and her friends, Edith has refused to sacrifice her ideals and remains stubbornly single. But among the pampered women and minor nobility Edith finds Mr. Neville, and her chance to escape from a life of humiliating spinsterhood...
First line: "From the window all that could be seen was a receding area of grey."
Favourite part: Edith is having lunch with her editor, who is trying to get her to modernize her romance novels in order to appeal to today's "liberated" woman who wants "something to reflect her lifestyle."
"I simply do not know anyone who has a lifestyle. What does it mean? It implies that everything you own was bought at exactly the same time, about five years ago, at the most. And, anyway, it's she's all that liberated, why doesn't she go down to the bar and pick someone up?"
"As far as they [her readers] are concerned - as far as I am concerned - those multi-orgasmic girls with the executive briefcases can go elsewhere. They will be adequately catered for. There are hucksters in every market place."
My thoughts: I can see why this won the Booker - Anita Brookner is a wordsmith the likes of which I've rarely seen. It's a short novel, but it's very well and carefully formed, focussing on Edith's struggle to come to terms with her work, herself, and her romantic life, or lack thereof.
It was a bit hard to determine when the novel was set - for a lot of the time, it seemed quite old-fashioned, perhaps in the 50's or 60's, with the thought that Edith would have to go into "exile" after the incident (don't want to give it away) and the whole liberated woman thing, but there's no indication that it's not set in the year it was written, 1984. But then, I supposed that women executives with their briefcases were starting to really come into the workforce in the 80's and perhaps Britain's social code was still pretty formal. And really, I suppose people have always gone and always will go into hiding after a big public embarrassment. Perhaps it's because the hotel also was very formal and old-fashioned, with its "veal-coloured" bedrooms.The other characters, particularly the vivacious, demanding, and self-centred Mrs. Pusey and her daughter Jennifer, were also very well done. All of the female guests at the hotel were there because they either weren't wanted or didn't have men - Mrs. Pusey is a rich widow, elderly Mme. de Bonneuil has been sent away from her family home because her son's wife dislikes her, and Monica has been sent away because her eating disorder embarrasses her husband and seems to be preventing her from having children.
The Times calls it a "smashing love story." I can't say I agree with that at all! Love has led Edith nowhere but trouble and trying to escape spinsterhood without love hasn't helped, either. But Edith does perhaps regain some self love, which is what she needed most.
(If you've reviewed this book, leave a link in the comments!)