Order for £10.79 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Pink Hotel, By Anna Stothard
Family life from a teen's perpsective
Monday 23 May 2011
Family relationships are the primal mystery of literature, and for a young novelist they offer fertile ground as a way of scrutinising the adult world.
Anna Stothard's debut, Isabel and Rocco, drew comparisons with Françoise Sagan due to the author's youth (18) and descriptions of how a brother and sister spy on their parents' turbulent relationship. The Pink Hotel is about another teenager, who flies from London to Los Angeles to discover more about her biological mother, Lily, who has died young.
Lily's room in the hotel yields little beyond the suitcase of old clothes and photographs. The two women could not be more different: one is dark, the other fair, one an ex-model turned nurse, the other a bookish ex-grammar-school girl, good at being overlooked. Inevitably, we discover that both women have led troubled lives, so that the theft of Lily's suitcase is part of a pattern.
It becomes clear that our narrator's journey is as much flight as quest. She seems a little too well-educated for the straitened North London life she describes, but as a sensitively-drawn portrait of a troubled young woman, she is convincing. Imagery involving fish, and half-human, half-animal creatures, recurs, emphasising the amorphous state of late adolescence.
As she hangs around seedy Los Angeles bars, the plot builds up an elegant noirish mystery. Why does Lily's husband want the suitcase back so badly? What was Lily really like? A troubling picture emerges of a selfish woman whom some describe as "an adrenaline rush", some as "a manipulative and dangerous woman", but whom only one man really sees as a person.
Stothard is at her most acute when observing the people inhabiting Tinseltown; having transported her English heroine there, it's a pity not to see more of the movie business. Better at comedy than anomie, she has an ear for a distinctive phrase (as when describing "the edgy, watery sound of teenage girls laughing") and dialogue, although her ending feels in need of a Ross Macdonald-type twist. This touching, convoluted love-story is shot through with a distinctive talent, but it is the second novel of a writer still teetering on the edge of the adult world. Next time, readers will hope she is fully engaged with it.
Amanda Craig's 'Hearts & Minds' is published by Abacus
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments