Hotel du Lac
First sentence: From the window all that could be seen was a receding area of grey.
Reflections: Edith Hope was sent to the Hotel du Lac by well-meaning friends, in the hopes that the surroundings will bring her peace after an upsetting romantic incident. The hotel is in a Swiss resort area, on a lake near Geneva: "What it had to offer was a mild form of sanctuary ... a place guaranteed to provide a restorative sojourn for those whom life had mistreated or merely fatigued." It is autumn, the tourists are gone, and the hotel has only a few guests. Upon arrival, Edith tentatively approaches the salon for tea:
"As she descended the wide, shallow stairs Edith could hear well-behaved laughter echoing from some sort of salon ... then, as she approached, as if drawn to this sound, a sudden furious barking, high-pitched, peevish, boding ill for future peace."
Edith's apprehension about the Hotel du Lac turns to fascination as she observes the other guests in the salon. Edith is a sensible sort, always clad in tweed and cardigans. She first becomes acquainted with Iris Pusey and her adult daughter, Jennifer, wealthy, fashionable women, mourning Iris' husband and feeding their emotional hunger by shopping in boutiques. They try to recruit Edith, but she is intimidated by their world: "Where they saw luxury goods, she saw only houses of detention." One by one we meet other guests: the aging Madame Bonneuil, Monica (the dog's owner), and Mr. Neville, who takes an interest in Edith.
Meanwhile, Edith is longing for David, a married man with whom she had an affair. During her stay at Hotel du Lac, she half-heartedly attempts to purge the emotions surrounding this relationship. She is alternately fascinated and repulsed by Mr. Neville's attentions. Brookner's exquisite prose draws the reader right into the ambience of the Hotel and its day-to-day routines. And yet, as the autumn season draws to an end and the hotel prepares to close for the winter, Brookner throws in a few surprises that ultimately make for a very satisfying ending. Highly recommended. ( )