Kate has a new job as an executive for a hotel chain and two young daughters when she discovers her husband is having an affair. As her marriage implodes, the pressure mounts in the workplace where Kate finds it increasingly difficult to reconcile the competing demands of caring for the guests and providing dividends to the shareholders.
After seeing this recommended on a couple of blogs I respect, and with an endorsement from Chris Cleave, I was all set for a more edgy read. After ploughing through The Lost Time Accidents, part of me welcomed the lightness of touch, while another part struggled with my lack of connection.
The premise ought to be emotionally engaging, although I guess it’s hard to find anything new to say about adultery. I do applaud a writer who writes realistically about work, and the hotel politics were certainly the most interesting to me, with a different angle on the topic to Hotels of North America. The two strands also combine well, given Kate’s sense of herself as the family carer and the fact that hotels often provide the setting for an illicit affair. Psychologically, we can see how Kate’s issues around caring and being cared for could stem from growing up with an emotionally aloof mother (although I was surprised she should seek out a therapist less than two weeks after discovering her husband’s betrayal). But this is almost lost within a somewhat bitty narrative: the things that happen are well described but, as in real life, they don’t necessarily go anywhere! Thanks to Picador for my review copy.
Although I avoid leaving home as much as possible these days, this novel did get me thinking about my own expectations of hotels, especially where I parted company with the narrator. While she appreciated the staff coming into her room for a quick tidy up and to fold back the duvet before bedtime, I detest such things, seeing it as an intrusion. Unlike Kate, I don’t want to be “cared for” like a child by strangers, although I do value a firm mattress and fresh fruit at breakfast. And I don’t want fresh towels when I have followed the dictates of the notice in the bathroom to live mine on the rack if I don’t need them changed. But most of all, I want that rarest of things, a quiet night, without interruption from the flush of another guest’s toilet or the drone of their shower. What do you expect from a hotel stay?
As usual, my 99-word story is based on the novel as well as the prompt, and echoes the tone of Charli’s post which is about living through grief.
You don’t own paradise
I remember hot afternoons, postcoital in a tangle of limbs, listening to the crashing of waves against the reef. I remember dressing lazily for barbecue dinners on the beach. Now I lie alone, tortured by visions of your arms entwined with hers.
Friends advised against returning to our honeymoon hotel. But you don’t own the waiter’s smile as he sets down my plate or the pale crabs sideways scuttling across the sand. You don’t own the apricot sunrise, or the rainbow fish the bronzed boys try to catch by hand. You don’t own my feelings. You don’t own paradise.