Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hotel du Lac

Today we said goodbye to Cheryl, a dynamic and delightful contributor to our discussions. She's off to a new adventure and we wish her the best, but man on man, will we miss her.

Joanne had been so taken by our April book, South of Broad, and by Conroy's Charleston that she told a friend that it made her want to go there. Today she told us that she and her friend did just that and it was even better than she could have imagined. She said she was surprised that the city was so cosmopolitan. After Cheryl's sad news (the movers were packing her house at that very moment), it was a lovely change of pace. Diana teased her and asked if she had booked her tickets for France yet.

Carolyn told us about a Nancy Pearl podcast she had listened to where Nancy talked about the elements that make a good book club book: the book receives mixed reviews from the group, the protagonist makes a decision and the book doesn't wind up in a neat ending.

We had all of those things in Hotel du Lac. Joanne started by saying she did not like the book, found the story listless and the characters insipid. She qualified her comment by saying she was simultaneously reading Jeanette Walls' latest which was engaging and engrossing. Mary on the other hand had loved it so much that she went back and read it a second time.

We were in total agreement that the prose was fantastic and if nothing else we read on because we were engaged by her "turn of a phrase" and the unexpected revelations that she sprinkled throughout as she uncovered the story. I'm sure the room painted "the colour of over-cooked veal" will stay with me for a very long time. Cheryl said that it was a slow read for her, but she agreed with Mary that she had enjoyed it, though she wouldn't have had it been any longer. Wilma thought it more of a back story to another story.

We were left hanging on whether she would go back to writing romance novels. Connie said she thought the hint of a change (rather than a promise of a new future) in her stay at the hotel was probably realistic to life. We also weren't sure what kinds of friends her friends were. Edith didn't appear to have any deep and trusting relationships, and she knew David was cooling his heels. We absolutely couldn't explain why she had messaged David by telegram, not letter, that she was not "coming home" but "returning." Why not Penelope? She put her on the plane, for crying out loud.

We also talked about the timing of the story, published in 1984. With so many couples living together and raising families outside of marriage, we felt the story would not play in today's values. We kept laughing that her gaffe of leaving Geoffry Long at the altar was so egregious that it required her taking a leave of absence. We loved the hotel, which was every bit a character as it's occupants.

Another question we toyed with was why Edith was willing to be the other woman with David and not with Neville. As Cheryl said - she loved David, but at the time of Neville's proposal, she knew David was moving on. She could have had the life of her choosing with Neville and wanted for nothing. Instead, she chose to go home with a manuscript that she wouldn't finish to her garden. Whatever her image was for her future, she kept it to herself.