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The Hotel (1927)

por Elizabeth Bowen

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19110111,658 (3.62)11
This classic, the first novel from Elizabeth Bowen, tells of a hotel on the Italian Riviera which is full of women who are forced to face the secrets from which society no longer protects them.
Añadido recientemente porCarlyPalmer, davesv, Mairsiedoats, librarianarpita, Nickelini, jfclark, mrcslttr, karenwall
Bibliotecas de Figuras NotablesCarson McCullers, Evelyn Waugh

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Here is a time capsule from an era when (fairly) wealthy English people could afford a season long holiday in Italy. The "will they won't they" romance is the most interesting aspect of the story. Each sentence has so many dependent clauses that it become a little difficult to follow the author's train of thought (which says as much about my reading comprehension as her writing style!). The author is an expert at capturing the varied nature of shy people--what memes these days would just call, "Awkward!" Recommended for all readers. ( )
  librarianarpita | Apr 12, 2021 |
Not the easiest or best Bowen, but I do love the place this book brings me.
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
1.5* - Blergh.

She did not want to go down to the courts again; she knew that if Mrs Kerr sat on here, watching her meditatively, her play would all go to pieces.
‘I have heard so much of your service. Today I am really going to watch it.’
‘This is one of my off days.’ ‘
Dear Sydney, whenever I come you tell me it’s one of your off days.’ Mrs Kerr laughed. ‘I’m unlucky.’
‘Oh, do you notice that? From the moment you come here I never hit anything.’
‘What on earth do you mean, my dear Sydney! How terribly sinister! It had never occurred to me that my eye might be evil. I meant something much more prosaic – that I happen to miss things.’

Well, I somewhat sympathise with Mrs. Kerr. I, too, miss things, and one of things I have missed was the point of this book. I have heard so much praise of Bowen's work that reading her first novel was a huge let down.

I first read about the The Hotel in connection with the censorship of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness. When reading up on the history of the trial and the ban of the book in the UK, some of the sources cite other books published in 1928 which also are attributed with a lesbian theme. Anyway, one of the articles referred to The Hotel not being considered for censorship because it was too "reticent".

Reticent, indeed. I had no expectations (or indeed any particular wish) to read about any romantic entanglements between the main characters, but I did expect the book to have story or a point but it seems that even these eluded me.

The Hotel is about a group of English tourists (mostly women) who holiday in a hotel in Italy. There is a group of older women, a few younger ones and the two main characters - Mrs. Kerr and Sydney. The tourists basically provide the soundboard of conventional upper-middle class society against which Mrs Kerr and Sydney develop their friendship, though Mrs Kerr is characterised so ambiguously that it is difficult to say whether she is one of the old "conventionals" or not.

Anyway, so during the holiday, Sydney meets Mrs Kerr and the two become friends and somewhat abstain from mingling with the rest of the guests. Their friendship is somewhat disrupted, however, when Mrs Kerr's son arrives at the hotel and one of the other guests, a clergyman, falls in love with Sydney and proposes to her. She refuses, then accepts, then breaks it off. Then guest start to depart.

Really, there is not much of a story.

What was more aggravating than the non-story was the writing. Yes, there were some great paragraphs, one my favourites being:

"On still spring nights the thud of a falling lemon would be enough to awake one in terror."

However, they were so few embedded in so much pretentious drivel that just would not come to any point.

‘There are situations in life,’ said Mrs Pinkerton, ‘face to face with which one is powerless.’ Though she only meant that in the struggle for life one is sorely handicapped by the obligations of nobility.

The only character that made me finish the book was Sydney, who is a straight forward sensible character.

‘Doesn’t it rain? I like it!’ she was moved to exclaim. ‘If I were Monet and alive now, I would paint this and present the picture to the P.L.M. as a poster for the Côte d’Azur.’ She smiled out at the rain with an air of complicity.
( )
1 vota BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
Glad to reread. Enjoyed even more that first time ( )
  kayclifton | Mar 8, 2016 |
First published in 1927 The Hotel was Elizabeth Bowen’s first novel, published following two collections of short stories. For a first novel it is very assured, remarkably so, written with great insight and subtlety.

In a hotel on the Italian Riviera, a certain kind of genteel English tourist spends the summer during the 1920’s. Here we meet spinsters Miss Pym and Miss Fitzgerald, unassuming and a little stuck in their ways, as the novel opens there has been an upsetting quarrel. Mrs and Miss Pinkerton are used to having things just their way, the exclusive use of the bathroom opposite their rooms’ just one of the comforts they have come to rely on. Sydney Warren, an attractive, scornful young woman, at the hotel with (and at the expense of) her cousin Tessa Bellamy, who’s vague ailments keep her largely to her room.

“Miss Pym never went near the tennis courts, but a prospect of walking down there and appearing with Mrs Kerr was delightful (poor Emily, scrambling alone in the hills!) She abandoned a plan she had, still embryonic, of going down to the shops, and wondered whether their two names – her own and Mrs Kerr’s – might not, henceforward, begin to be coupled. She had a quiet little thrill and held open the swing-door with gratitude, almost with reverence. Mrs Kerr with a vague inclination of the head passed out before her. They crossed the gravel together under the hundred windows of The Hotel.”

Popular middle-aged Mrs Kerr is glamorous and quietly manipulative, and Sydney falls under her spell. Mrs Kerr is subject to a great deal of speculation from the other guests, sought out and admired, Sydney can bask a little in the glow of her aura although her fledgling friendship with Mrs Kerr becomes the subject of a little mild spite.

Middle-aged clergyman James Milton is a late arrival at the hotel, and not aware of the unwritten bathroom law – he relaxes from his arduous journey with a soak in the Pinkerton’s bathroom. His transgression is hardly a good start, and at first he is viewed by his fellow guests as a fairly unexciting prospect. The pretty Lawrence sisters are also popular with several of the guests, they are cynical and witty, and quite conventional, Veronica Lawrence is wearily certain about her eventual future being that of an inevitable marriage. Unwittingly Veronica’s attitude to love and marriage has quite an influence on Sydney, leading her to make a surprising decision. The Lawrence girls; trying to throw off their conventionality, with their air of world weary cynicism, but their very conventionality is infectious. Sydney is as influenced by them as she is by Mrs Kerr, and between both of these outside influences she becomes less and less certain of what she wants. James Milton is very much in the market for a wife, and it is probably not so surprising that he should look towards Sydney.

It is when Mrs Kerr’s twenty year old son arrives at the hotel that we begin to see her cool manipulation in action. Ronald and Sydney don’t entirely hit it off at first, but as Sydney seems to be drawing closer to James, it hardly seems to matter.

“ He pushed his way back into the drawing room, now quite vacant and in yellow shade from the awning. He sat down on a sofa, leaning back, crossing his legs, and waited for his mother to appear in the window, as she almost immediately did, and after a moment’s blank stare into the dusk to perceive him and come over royally. She did concede, and generously he could approve the concession, a few words back over her shoulder, perhaps to Miss Warren out there. Then she sat beside him, most beautiful in the half light, her attitude settling into complete repose as silk settles into folds.”

Bowen is a master at observation, and here she has recreated the claustrophobia of a genteel hotel, and the chilly relationships that exist behind its rarefied exterior, brilliantly.
The world of the hotel one of tennis and bridge, cliff side-walks, picnics and dining room conversation, is not an entirely comfortable one. This is a closed, privileged world, set among the olive groves and sunshine of the Riviera, everyone knows just how to behave, yet there is little sense of real enjoyment. Before the summer ends Sydney falls further and more resolutely under the spell of Mrs Kerr, neither she, Roland or James will be left untouched by the intensity that has risen up between them all.

Elizabeth Bowen’s writing is absolutely sublime, I find she needs to be read slowly, there is perhaps little in the way of plot, but really who needs plot? There is in fact a lot going on in the polite conversations, the side long glances, unspoken passions and future hopes. My favourite Bowen novels (I have yet to read them all) so far remain Death of the Heart and The House in Paris, but this is an excellent novel, and would actually make for a great place to start for anyone new to Bowen. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Dec 23, 2014 |
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Miss Fitzgerald hurried out of the Hotel into the road.
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She was hunched over a writing-table, trying to write a letter with a Hotel pen that screeched and staggered.... She twirled her pen and stared at the nib resignedly. “Pen’s the limit”.
“It looks it. You might find a better one in the drawing-room.... Go in and look for a pen.... Look here, take my Onoto.”
“Oh no, thanks. Nothing but grief and bitterness comes of borrowing other people’s Onotos.”
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This classic, the first novel from Elizabeth Bowen, tells of a hotel on the Italian Riviera which is full of women who are forced to face the secrets from which society no longer protects them.

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