So many of Mavis Gallant’s characters inhabit between spaces.
Which is strange, because so many of Mavis Gallant’s other itinerant women are staying in hotels, but Netta is running one.
And she is just as between as the rest of them.
Once she said yes and, then, later, she said yes again: this story unfolds between yeses.
In “Poor Franzi”, guests gathered on a crowded terrace in the Austrian Alps, and a young woman wonders: “What will happen to me if I marry him….”
In “The Moslem Wife”, Netta marries Jack, and she warns him not to be so “pally” with the female guests at the hotel, but the warning is for naught.
In “Going Ashore”, the young daughter stays in a hotel with her mother on shore and reflects upon the many Uncles she has known, the many relationships her mother has had with men through the years. In “New Year’s Eve”, Amabel stays in a hotel, apart from the Plummers, who have a perfect relationship in her view (from that distance in the hotel).
In “The Moslem Wife”, Netta tells herself to make a different choice, but then follows the familiar pattern of forgiveness and acceptance: “What could I do…but let my arm be held, my steps be guided?”
In “A Day like Any Other”, Frau Stengel, the children’s governess, lives on the attic floor of a hotel, where she is surrounded by stony satin cushions, crocheted mats and pictures of kittens cut from magazines.
Netta and Jack keep the hotel in “The Moslem Wife” in beautiful condition, and there are many mentions of the changing light and reflections behind the meticulously painted and repaired green shutters over the windows (until the war, when everything changes).