Thursday, 22 June 2017

Hotel du Lac, Chapter 10

The novel's new tone - darker, less ironic - continues here. The season has changed; we're heading towards winter. Then there's a scene with the Puseys: Alain, the young waiter, has been (wrongly) accused of impropriety. 'Of course, he'll have to go,' says Mrs Pusey.

The Puseys are no longer comic characters. The scene isn't played as farce, as might have been the case earlier. Instead we see the Puseys' carelessness, their misrule, their disregard of others, and also Mrs Pusey's fear of change. That Jennifer Pusey may have one or two secrets is hinted at. The mystery of the opening and closing door is again invoked. 'I wonder,' thinks Edith. 'I wonder.'

'My patience with this little comedy is wearing a bit thin,' she says to herself, confirming the change that has been in the air of the novel for some time.

Breakfastless - for the hotel is at sixes and sevens - she heads into town, turning into Haffenegger's,* where she meets Monica. The themes are feminism, exile and homesickness. The tone is glum. The changed circumstances are acknowledged:
It seemed to both of them in their separate ways that only the possession of this day held worse days at bay, that, for each of them, the seriousness of their relative predicaments had so far been material for satire or ridicule or even for amusement. But that the characters who had furnished that satire or that amusement were now taking on a disturbing life of their own...
Time in chapter 10 passes alarmingly quickly. Soon it is afternoon and the day is wasted. We finish in the hotel again, preparing for dinner. Like chapter 5 the chapter has taken place, classically, over the course of a day.

It's worth pointing out here that one isn't quite sure how long Edith Hope has been at the Hotel du Lac. Everybody seems fully institutionalised. One recalls the inmates of the Swiss sanatorium in The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, and the terrifying vagueness with which days, months, years go by.


*Last encountered in chapter 6 (see my post), where the spelling was slightly different.

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