The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothart
First published by Alma Books in 2011
A seventeen-year-old London girl flies to Los Angeles for the funeral of her mother Lily, from whom she was separated in her childhood. After stealing a suitcase of letters, clothes and photographs from her mum’s bedroom at the top of a hotel on Venice Beach, the girl spends her summer travelling around Los Angeles in a bid to track down the men who knew her mother. As she discovers more about Lily’s past and tries to re-enact her life, she comes to question the foundations of her own personality
The novel begins with our unnamed narrator arriving in the hotel her mother and husband owned, finding the wake in full flow, along with the booze and other substances, and a vast assortment of sleazy and unsavoury characters. She steals a suitcase from her mother’s room, and so begins a journey of discovery, of both her mother and herself….
The unnamed narrator is pretty screwed up – to put it mildly – yet she is fascinating and you want to find out more about her, and I found myself really wanting things to work out for her, although she was frustrating at times! She did often seem older than her 17 years, but I think this reflected everything she had been through over the years, and as the story progresses we find out more about the difficult relationship she has had with her father, which has no doubt led to some of her issues – and some of the choices she makes when in the States.
Although I liked the daughter as a character, one problem I had with her is that her speech didn’t quite ring true; she just didn’t speak like a 17-year-old Londoner, and I would have expected more of a contrast between her dialect and that of the other American characters.
Overall the book is very readable and I loved the LA setting and the oddball characters that the narrator brushes shoulders with on her travels. It is the plot for me that didn’t always work too well – firstly her pursuit for information about her mother never really takes off, and then just fizzles out as we focus more on the narrator herself. In fact, the blurb isn’t really that accurate I don’t think – it is more about the development of the narrator rather than that much to do with Lily and her life.
Somewhere in the middle of the book I did wonder where things were heading – however by the end I was actually quite gripped even though the story had gone in a direction that was completely unexpected, and seemed at odds with the start of the novel. So despite the book not always quite working for me, I found myself wanting more at the end.
Reading The Pink Hotel was a slightly strange and surreal experience, and I didn’t know what to make of it at times. It was gritty and hard-hitting, and doesn’t hold back, yet at times it also drifted off course a bit and there were some small sections here and there which really added nothing. But despite this, and finding some bits slightly irritating and unbelievable, I really enjoyed reading it and will probably check out the author’s other two books.