It’s less than a week until release of Felicity at the Cross Hotel – hooray! Felicity at the Cross Hotel is a feel good romance – a cheerful summer read – and so really I should be in a relaxed mood, but I’m actually quite nervous about release!
Still, at least my hero and heroine will have the other characters in the book for company when they’re launched on the world. Hotels make a great setting for fiction because they provide a reason for all sorts of unlikely characters to come together. I’ve been thinking of some of the other hotel-set books I’ve read, and there are some classics among them. Here are 10 of my favourites. My list ranges from horror to poignant, mysterious to witty, disturbing to heartwarming, but all are based around a hotel.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, by Deborah Moggach
When Ravi Kapoor, an overworked London doctor, reaches the breaking point with his difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: “Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.” His prayer is seemingly answered when Ravi’s entrepreneurial cousin sets up a retirement home in India, hoping to re-create in Bangalore an elegant lost corner of England. Several retirees are enticed by the promise of indulgent living at a bargain price, but upon arriving, they are dismayed to find that restoration of the once sophisiticated hotel has stalled, and that such amenities as water and electricity are . . . infrequent. But what their new life lacks in luxury, they come to find, it’s plentiful in adventure, stunning beauty, and unexpected love.
Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier
Her mother’s dying request takes Mary Yellan on a sad journey across the bleak moorland of Cornwall to reach Jamaica Inn, the home of her Aunt Patience. With the coachman’s warning echoing in her memory, Mary arrives at a dismal place to find Patience a changed woman, cowering from her overbearing husband, Joss Merlyn.
Affected by the Inn’s brooding power, Mary is thwarted in her attention to reform her aunt, and unwillingly drawn into the dark deeds of Joss and his accomplices. And, as she struggles with events beyond her control, Mary is further thrown by her feelings for a man she dare not trust….
The Shining, by Stephen King
Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.
Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor
On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies—boredom and the Grim Reaper. Then one day Mrs. Palfrey strikes up an unexpected friendship with Ludo, a handsome young writer, and learns that even the old can fall in love.
Hotel World, by Ali Smith
Five disparate voices inhabit Ali Smith’s dreamlike, mesmerising Hotel World, set in the luxurious anonymity of the Global Hotel, in an unnamed northern English city. The disembodied yet interconnected characters include Sara, a 19-year-old chambermaid who has recently died at the hotel; her bereaved sister, Clare, who visits the scene of Sara’s death; Penny, an advertising copywriter who is staying in the room opposite; Lise, the Global’s depressed receptionist; and the homeless Else who begs on the street outside. Smith’s ambitious prose explores all facets of language and its uses. Sara takes us through the moment of her exit from the world and beyond; in her desperate, fading grip on words and senses she gropes to impart the meaning of her death in what she terms “the lift for dishes”–then comes a flash of clarity: “That’s the name for it, the name for it; that’s it; dumb waiter dumb waiter dumb waiter.” Blended with hers are other voices: Penny’s bland journalese and Else’s obsession with metaphysical poetry.
The Little French Guesthouse, by Helen Pollard
When Emmy Jamieson arrives at La Cour des Roses, a beautiful guesthouse in the French countryside, she can’t wait to spend two weeks relaxing with boyfriend Nathan. Their relationship needs a little TLC and Emmy is certain this holiday will do the trick. But they’ve barely unpacked before he scarpers with Gloria, the guesthouse owner’s cougar wife.
Rupert, the ailing guesthouse owner, is shell-shocked. Feeling somewhat responsible, and rather generous after a bottle (or so) of wine, heartbroken Emmy offers to help. Changing sheets in the gîtes will help keep her mind off her misery.
Thrust into the heart of the local community, Emmy suddenly finds herself surrounded by new friends. And with sizzling hot gardener Ryan and the infuriating (if gorgeous) accountant Alain providing welcome distractions, Nathan is fast becoming a distant memory.
Fresh coffee and croissants for breakfast, feeding the hens in the warm evening light; Emmy starts to feel quite at home. But it would be madness to walk away from her friends, family, and everything she’s ever worked for, to take a chance on a place she fell for on holiday – wouldn’t it?
At Bertram’s Hotel, by Agatha Christie
An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out! When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer. Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day!
Eloise, by Kay Thompson
Eloise lives with her nanny at The Plaza Hotel in New York. The daughter of extremely rich parents, she is left daily to her own devices. She knows everything about The Plaza and everyone in it. Henry James would want to study her. Queen Victoria would recognise her as an Equal. The New York Jets would want to have her on their side. Lewis Carroll would love her (once he got over the initial shock). Her antics are hilarious, her characterisation of those around her, perfect and whether you are about to fall in love with Eloise or you already adore her, you ought to have this book.
Psycho, by Robert Bloch
It was a dark and stormy night when Mary Crane glimpsed the unlit neon sign announcing the vacancy at the Bates motel. Exhausted, lost, and at the end of her rope, she was eager for a hot shower and a bed for the night. Her room was musty but clean and the plumbing worked. Norman Bates, the manager, seemed nice, if a little odd.
A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster
Published in 1908, A Room with A View is one of E. M. Forster’s most celebrated works. Forster explores love among a cast of eccentric characters gathered in an Italian pension and in a corner of Surrey, England. Caught up in a world of social snobbery, Lucy Honeychurch must make a decision that will decide the course of her future: She is forced to choose between convention and passion.
There! A mix of some lovely reading! My author friend Kate Blackadder also has a book set in a hotel, which began life as a serial in The People’s Friend. The Ferryboat is set in the Highlands, and Kate has an article here about the hotel setting in fiction and why she chose it. Kate will be interviewing me on her blog next week about my own fictional Cross Hotel in the Lake District – when Felicity at the Cross Hotel will be released!
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Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? Have I missed one of your favourites? Can you think of any more that you’d add to the list? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!