Monday, May 4, 2020

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan
HarperCollins: 4/14/20
P.S. paperback; 352 pages

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan is a highly recommended examination of the complicated relationship between a daughter and her mother.

Thirty-nine-year-old Tilda's mother, Grace, has died and she has returned to Brighton for the first time since her mother sent her away to boarding school. Tilda considered living at Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel in Brighton with her mom to be the best family she ever had so being sent away to boarding school opened up a fissure that never closed. Life with her mother was always a struggle after her father disappeared and her mother told her he died. As she sorts through her mother's things, she reflects on her relationship with her mother and examines what happened many years ago when Tilda went by the nickname Tilly.

The narrative in alternating chapters by Tilly (approximately age 7) and adult Tilda, with excerpts from Grace's journals included as Tilda reads them. The chapter headings tell you who is narrating them, but it is easy to distinguish between the point-of-view of a child and an adult. Additionally, Tilly's chapters are all told in third person while Tilda's are in first person. Tilda/Tilly has the gift of "sight" and she see things other people can't see, ghosts or spirits, so every character introduced may not be exactly what you initially think. When you read Tilda's chapters you immediately know that she is a damaged woman who needs her rituals to feel safe.

The writing is descriptive and insightful. As this is a character driven novel, the plot is more introspective as Tilda tries to figure out why her mother did what she did. Hogan does a good job handling the thoughts and feelings of a child in the Tilly chapters, which contrast greatly with the adult Tilda chapters. In Tilly's chapters you can see the root of the OCD rituals that Tilda must do to feel safe. Clearly readers will know that Grace had some mental health issues which influenced her relationship with Tilly. Tilly's father, Stevie, is clearly adored by his daughter, but he is not well-developed for us to know why Grace felt she had to tell Tilly he died.

My feelings are all over the place on this novel. It started out strong enough to capture my attention. I enjoyed the Tilly chapters as a young child struggled to understand why her world had changed so much and why her beloved father was gone. Tilda is harder to warm up to but then the cause of her issues comes out through Tilly's chapters and Grace's journals. Then it became a bit bogged down in the middle and I became a wee bit weary of all the use of the "sightings." Hogan does leave us on a positive note with closure for Tilda and hope for a future, which helped set my misgivings aside.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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