Saturday 18 February 2017

The Dominance of Hotel du Lac

In various art forms a particular work can acquire a dominance over others by an artist. Sometimes such works will leave the artist behind. One thinks of the Mona Lisa, which, for reasons that lie outside its merits as an artwork, has a significance far beyond the other works of Leonardo da Vinci. In Anita Brookner's more limited case, her 1984 novel Hotel du Lac sits a little way outside or above the rest of her oeuvre. This is because it won the Booker Prize, of course, and its sales therefore probably exceeded those of her other works; it is also, admittedly, because the novel is a little atypical of Brookner in its tone and structure. But it is interesting that she should be so heavily known for this one work, and that her publishers should seek to maintain the novel's preeminence. When, for example, most of Brookner's novels were recently reissued in a new livery by Penguin, Hotel du Lac was enthusiastically pushed, and had a different, coloured cover design.

Waterstone's, Piccadilly - recent photo from Twitter


  1. I find it somewhat annoying, particularly because HdL was one of my less favorite Brookners the first time around. I appreciated more on my second read of it, but even now, it doesn't rise to the top as one of my favorites. A similar thing happens with Barbara Pym and Excellent Women. I suppose it *could* perhaps be her masterpiece, but I would love it if more people would explore her other novels a bit more.

    1. I agree. Excellent Women is the only Pym to have achieved the special status of being published by Penguin Classics (with an intro by A. N. Wilson, I think). Of course, EW was much promoted by Larkin, along with A Glass of Blessings.


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