Anita Brookner

Another week, another missed blog post. I’m so sorry, friends. I’ve been wrestling with my sluggish internet connection for far too long, and am hoping to get it sorted out this week. I had no idea that upgrading my connection could be so complicated.

However, I have not spent the entire week on hold or talking to technical support. I have also been reading, of course. Last week, we did a little day-trip to Prince Edward County to pick local blueberries (it’s the tail end of the season; we’ll go during the first week of August, next year) and ended up at Miss Lily’s CafĂ© in Picton.

Miss Lily’s serves pretentiously packaged but absolutely delectable coffee from Toronto. And it’s connected to Books and Company, an airy and beautiful independent bookseller with a resident cat. It was hot outside, I felt weary, and the children were industriously painting themselves with ice cream. Nick said to me, “Why don’t you slip in for a browse?”

I was only waiting to be asked. I shot inside and, two minutes later, was perusing Books and Company’s small used-book section and asking myself, in genuine astonishment, Why haven’t I ever read Anita Brookner? They were offering a used copy of Hotel du Lac for $3.50. Ridiculous! How could I not?

So. Hotel du Lac.

This is the edition I bought, although someone's attempted to peel off the Booker McConnell sticker.

Nothing much happens in the first half, and the “scandal” constantly, mysteriously mentioned in that first half is thoroughly foolish and predictable. This is the point. The novel is a window into the acerbic, curious, slightly depressive, and uncompromising mind of its protagonist, Edith Hope (“a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name”), who spends a week or so at a Swiss hotel in the off-season.

The novel is beautifully written, with a clarity and precision that’s quite startling to read. And it’s a quiet but steady – intransigent, even – tract about the importance of respecting and holding to one’s own standards and beliefs, even when they offend and inconvenience everybody else.

I’m afraid that sounds like faint praise, but it’s an old-fashioned book in the best sense of the word. It is a success on its own terms, which is precisely what it set out to be.

Have you discovered or rediscovered any authors recently? What are you reading? Also, did you get your fill of local berries this year? I feel a deficiency!

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2 Responses to “Anita Brookner”

  1. E.G.Randolph says:

    The book sounds very interesting. Over the summer I discovered David Mitch, a irish writer of truly inspiring books. And NO! There were not nearly enough blueberries this year. However, the peaches were divine!
    best wishes,

    P.S. Books and Company sound wonderful. It really should be a universal law that every bookstore needs to have a nearby cafe and resident cat.

  2. Ying says:

    E.G.Randolph, do you mean David Mitchell? I think he’s mind-blowingly excellent, and I only resent him a tiny bit for being such an extravagantly gifted writer. I’m so glad you’re enjoying his work, too!

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