Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Belated Brookner Day Post

Finally -- I have a functioning computer.  I've been without a home computer for nearly two weeks.  We've also had some other drama going on at home; Atticus has SEVERE separation anxiety.  But, of course, that's an entirely different post.  Let's just say that blogging has been nigh impossible at chez Roper.

Although I missed Anita Brookner day, I still wanted to post my thoughts on Hotel du Lac.  This is my first Brookner book.  I've always intended to read something by Brookner, but I think I was daunted by the number of books.  I didn't know where to start.  I picked Hotel du Lac because it was a Booker winner.

Hotel du Lac is what I would call a quiet novel.  There is a plot, but the strength of the book lies in the characters' unspoken thoughts, observations, and motivations.  The novel begins with Edith Hope -- a famed romance novelist -- settling in to a Swiss hotel after a socially embarrassing incident.  The hotel is sparsely peopled, but the handful of hotel residents fuel the humor, emotion, and, of course, move along the plot.

This slim volume -- under 200 pages -- clips along at a nice pace,the wit is sharp, and the characters are intriguing.... but...... I wouldn't say I like it.  I think I certainly like Brookner's writing.  She seems to be a sort of darker Barbara Pym with bits of Elizabeth Taylor cooked in and a dash of Iris Murdoch; you know, quintessentially British and witty, but with darker emotions and an elegiac tone.  Of course, I'm basing my assessment of Brookner's writing style from one book and I should really read all of them before I start making author-recipes.  I simply didn't care for any of the characters;  Edith Hope seems cold and I have a difficult time sympathizing her situation and all the other characters are obnoxious, shallow, and/or calculating.

For all my character dislikes, I simply cannot stop raving over the writing.  In addition to great dialogue and some marvelous descriptive passages, I found myself really loving the phrases that seemed to pop-out .  For example, the hotel corridor is described as being "vibrant with absence" (pg.13).  I remember pausing my reading to mull over that phrase.  It is such an apt description of that sensation that strikes out with emptiness when one is in a typically bustling place.  I can certainly say that the academic library I work at is vibrant with absence in the summer months!

So yes, certainly more Brookner in my future.  I'm planning on visiting the other Brookner posts to decide on which novel to read next!  Thanks Thomas and Simon for hosting International Anita Brookner Day!


Eva said...

I picked this up as my first Brookner a year or two ago, expecting to love it. Then I didn't, for much the reasons you described. But Simon T did a post on this for Brookner Day and apparently Thomas & Simon S say it's not her best book. So there's hope! :D

(P.S. I'm glad you have a new computer, and I hope Atticus settles soon. Sending good thoughts your way!)

Thomas at My Porch said...

Amanda, based on this review I think you will grow to love AB more and more. The crazy beauty of her books is that the characters are people that you probably don't want to know or be. But reading about them, in Brookner's amazing prose is like watching a really elegant train-wreck.

Thomas at My Porch said...

Your review has been posted to the IABD site. I agree about your comparison to Pym and Murdoch. I would go further and say that Brookner is a more distilled, perhaps more abstract combination of them.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I re-read this book for IABD, and didn't enjoy it as much as I did my first read. I agree with your character assessments, and I don't know... I was getting really annoyed with the re-read, thinking Edith is way too passive to be a protagonist. Brookner did eventually get it to work though.

I haven't read any other Brookners, but I probably will, in due course.

Readerly Rambles: 08/05/2011 | Fig and Thistle said...

[...] du Lac by Anita Brookner:  You can read my belated International Brookner Day post here.  I’ll certainly be revisiting this author, as I really enjoyed her writing style.  [...]