Romantic novelist Edith Hope is staying in a hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva, where her friends have advised her to retreat following an unfortunate incident. There she meets other English visitors, including Mrs Pusey and her daughter Jennifer, and an attractive middle-aged man, Mr Neville. Edith reaches Hotel du Lac in a state of bewildered confusion at the turn of events in her life. A secret and often lonely affair with a married man and an aborted marriage later, she is banished by her friends, who advise her to go on "probation" so as to "grow up," and "be a woman," atoning for her mistakes. Edith comes to the hotel swearing not to change. The silent charms of the hotel and her observations of the guests there all tug at Edith with questions of her identity, forcing her to examine who she is and what she has been. At the hotel, she observes people from different walks of their lives — Mrs Pusey and her daughter, Jennifer and their love for each other and the splendid oblivious lives they live; Mme de Bonneuil, who lives at the hotel in solitary expulsion from her son; and Monica, who came to the hotel, acceding to her husband's demands. She falls for the ambiguous smile of Mr Neville, who asks for her hand. She rejects the possibility of a relationship with him when she realises he is an incorrigible womaniser. This also finally leads her to realize what her life is expected to be. Once again, she breaks chains and decides to take things in her own hands. The novel won the Booker Prize in 1984.