Thursday, 5 July 2012

Second Orange book: The Pink Hotel

The library came up with The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard quicker than I anticipated so I sat down on Tuesday evening and started to read it, and sat up late last night to finish it (why is there a difference between sitting up and sitting down?) While not a great book it was thoroughly engaging. I think the person who wrote the blurb had not actually read the book as it was a distinctly inaccurate summary of the story. It tells of a young girl going to America when her estranged mother dies, and stealing a suitcase of her possessions through which she struggles to make some sense of her mother's life and her feelings about her.


Ok, am going to pick fault with it before I start. I'm sorry but these small things occur to me when I read a book and I *hate* logical inconsistencies in plots. You are presented with the home life of this girl ... it is not affluent, quite the opposite. Ok, stealing her step-mother's credit card was fine ... but she had never been abroad, stated quite clearly ... why would she have owned a passport! She could not have flown to america, full stop. So the story had this credibility problem for me when it had barely begun. However I didn't dwell on it too long as you are drawn right in to this strange new environment and the girl's rather peculiar behaviour. It was not what I expected at all. I only just realised that the narrating character does not have a name. I think that was kind of symbolic. That she didn't really know who she was. I thought, and she did for some of the time (as it says in the blurb), that she was going to try and find out about her mother. But mainly she needed the space, away from her life, to find out about herself. Lily, the mother, had given birth at just 14 and then three years later abandoned her daughter, leaving her with her father. Running away to America she got married twice, trained as a nurse and then inherited the Pink Hotel from a patient, where she appeared to live a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle throwing drug-fuelled parties. The daughter just hangs around, and ends up living with David, someone who she meets after the wake, and thinks is a former boyfriend of her mother's. She doesn't tell him who she is. And there are things, it turns out, that he is not telling her. To begin with she comes across as really young, immature, but she has this cocky self-confidence, the term street-wise would certainly apply, and she seems to slip easily into the slightly sleazy world her mother lived in. There are regular strange dream sequences that seemed a little out of place, I think trying to impress upon the reader how messed up this girl is, but you really didn't need it after all the discussion of her scars. 


The book is a rite of passage story. It is about a girl who slips out of her scuffed trainers and sweaty t-shirt and into her mother's fuscia silk dress, trying it on for size, but in the end finding she does not need to dress up. A girl who was essentially dislocated from people and places, but who finds a place to be. Even though she shared her mother's streak of dishonesty I couldn't help but like her, because she was truthful about the things that mattered.

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