BOOK REVIEW / A rare talent to abuse: 'Hotel 167' - Jane Solomon: Picador, 4.99
The novel comes with editorial assurances that it is 'intensely autobiographical'. In fact the text is seeded with clues. Solomon's insertions of 'you see' break the cold analytical tone, address the reader directly, beseech understanding. Just as Maud has to transfer her pain to her arm before she can care for it, so Solomon has had to transfer it to Maud before she can write it down. The third-person narrative is a device, the confiding asides are a lure. And yet Solomon is ruthless with her alter ego. She undermines Maud, lays bare her manipulative game-playing but is unequivocal about the despair behind it: 'There was no help.' The novel's description of NHS care and authoritarian attitudes is depressingly convincing: 'She wished that she could say something, make her feelings known. At the same time, however, she felt that this attitude would be interpreted as presumptuous.' Maud, dealing with doctors, is a mouse trying to play games with a cat. The hospital passes her on from one doctor to another, from one form of medication to another. They don't listen to her. She can't speak to them.
To Grumer, she offers an exotic-erotic narrative centred round an older couple, Yasmin and Alan, who - she says - have involved her in their relationship. Bewildered, salivating and appalled, he trails her to the cinema where the three made love while watching Last Tango in Paris, to the restaurant where they masturbated each other with oysters, to the graveyard where they smoked cannabis, and where Maud cuts herself in his presence. At last he tries to have sex with her, confirming what Maud expects: her thoughts, 'that had been her friends during her enforced solitariness', are of no value to him, need to be suppressed with pills or answered with sex.
Hotel 167 describes its looking-glass world with remarkable artistry and unsparing black humour. Deliberately, it challenges its readership. Self- mutilation, like anorexia, is common among young women. Are we listening? Do we want to understand? And then comes the most disturbing question: does Solomon want us to understand?
Arts & Ents blogs
The episode begins with Finn (Cory Monteith) at college, partying and accidentally participating in ...
What a wonderful way to end this momentous series in the 50th year of Doctor Who. From the start of ...
Let's talk book blurbs, those quotes you get, usually from other writers, that are meant to entice y...
- 1 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 2 Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
- 3 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 4 'Swivel-gate': David Cameron goes to war with the press over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
- 5 It’s official: thanks to Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott, anti-Semitism is no more
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.