Saturday, 10 June 2017

Hotel du Lac, Chapter 2

A steady pace and a sparkling tone are maintained in Hotel du Lac's second chapter. We get to know more about Edith's lover David, and we get further viewings of the hotel's guests. The fairly monstrous Mrs Pusey (but 'dainty with it,' as Brookner said in interview) and Jennifer come to the fore.

The mystery of Edith's presence in Vevey (which is never named) remains potent. We're also treated to a key passage, the famous, clever, and perhaps now rather hackneyed lines about the hare and the tortoise (which crop up here and there on Twitter with aggravating regularity).

The passage comes during one of the book's many flashbacks. Edith is about to undergo the ordeal of dinner at the hotel. She leans back for a moment and closes her eyes, remembering the last meal she had before leaving England, with her agent. We're clearly deep within Edith's consciousness here, but during the remembered meal something disconcerting happens. We suddenly have access to the private thoughts and observations of the agent. These are useful in that they let us see Edith from the outside, but they're at the expense of the usual novelistic protocols.

A similar clumsiness is seen at the sentence level. In the following sentence, the gerund is misapplied:
Talking busily to each other, knives and forks flashed as they ate their way enthusiastically through four courses...
I grant that these are all rare and minor slips, but perhaps they remind us that Hotel du Lac is a relatively early Brookner.

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