Tuesday, March 13, 2012

book review: The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard

The backstory: The Pink Hotel, Anna Stothard's second novel, is longlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize. At 29 Stothard is the youngest writer on this year's longlist.

The basics: The Pink Hotel is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl from London who sets off to Los Angeles when her mother, who left when she was three, dies. Her mother and her husband own the pink hotel in Venice Beach.

My thoughts: When I sat down to read The Pink Hotel, I knew little about it. The cover led me to believe it was a light, vacation romp and perhaps a romance of sorts. Instead, I was delighted to discover an absorbing, gritty portrait of the unnamed narrator and her search for herself in her mother's memory. I was mesmerized by Stothard's portrait of Los Angeles and its inhabitants. The spunky heroine arrives during her mother's wake, which is really more of a rave. She sneaks up to the apartment at the top of the hotel where her mother lived. She takes off with a suitcase filled with some clothes and documents.

This novel is a beautiful exploration of a main character who has little idea of who she is, but she is bright, thoughtful and observant: "It sometimes seems that men and women are born to be a particular age. David was meant to be in his twenties. I’m meant to be fifteen, maybe. Children are allowed to be perplexed, but adults are judged on how well they mould to the world around them and how well they connect. If you’re no good at connecting then you’re a failure." Layers of mystery run through this novel, as the narrator reaches out to people who knew her mother in the hopes they can tell her more about Lily, her mother. None of them knew Lily had a daughter. Lily was fourteen when she gave birth and hasn't been in England since she was 17. As our heroine uncovers more secrets, even more emerge. Her path was never clear, but this novel's narrative flow was as lovely as it was winding.

The Pink Hotel exemplifies why I love the Orange Prize so much and strive to read its longlist each year. I had not heard of this book or author, but now I'm rooting for its inclusion on the short list.

Favorite passage: "The bravado of those conversations scared me, though, because no one told the truth. I don’t think it was their fault, though. I think the truth is actually very difficult to know about. It’s as hard to tell the truth as it is to see it in other people."

The verdict: Stothard mesmerized me from the very first page of this novel. I so enjoyed the day I spent with this novel and the girl with no name. It was a sexy, sad, bittersweet adventure through Los Angeles, but more importantly, it was a shocking and illuminating portrait of a lost, troubled young girl trying to find herself, understand her mother, and simply live her life.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 300 pages
Publication date: April 18, 2011
Source: I bought it for my Kindle (it's only $8.17)

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Pink Hotel from the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

Also check out Anna Stothard's website, blog and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

11 comments:

  1. This sounds awesome Carrie. I may just have to purchase it despite having far too many unread books already. Great review.

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    1. Given the option of too many or too few unread books, I suppose I'd still pick too many. Do add another to the pile!

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  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! When it showed up on the longlist, I checked out some official reviews....none of which were very favorable. But knowing that you liked it makes me reconsider reading it.

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    1. It really surprised me, and I'm so glad I read it early on. I'll be eager to see how other Orange readers like it.

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  3. I thought it looked like a light vacation romp too! I'm pleased to hear it is grittier than that and look forward to trying it soon.

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    1. Jackie--I love when a book surprises me like that. I hope you like it!

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  4. Oh, this does sound very good, and you are right, I think from the title and cover alone, I would have expected something else. It sounds really deep and absorbing, and like something that I would love to check out. Great review on this one today. I am so glad you loved it!

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    1. Zibilee--it's the second book I've read this month whose title and cover made me think vacation romance romp and neither were. I'm so glad I read this one!

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  5. I completely agree about the cover. Definitely a misstep on the publisher's part as I think many people will overlook it thinking it's too light. However, you've piqued my interest so I may just have to check it out now.

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    1. I hope you do! The problem with a misleading cover is not finding the right readers for a book. This book deserves to find some good ones!

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  6. Wow! I hadn't heard of this either but it does sound great. I love the quotes you included.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!