Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan
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.
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.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.