All Reviews, contemporary

Book Review: Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

Queenie Malone's Paradise HotelQueenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


⭑⭑⭑⭑ 4 stars

“It was a mystery, like a clue in a Famous Five story, but Tilly had a horrible feeling that this one was not going to end up with smiles all round, a slap-up tea, and a biscuit for Timmy.

This is my first Ruth Hogan novel, and it won’t be my last. She enticed me with her opening line alone:

“My mother killed my father when I was seven years old. Now, thirty-nine years later, she is dead too, and I am an orphan.”

Her way with words is as magical as a fairy godmother, the pages are her spells, and the reader receives what magic has been cast when reading her words.

In terms of plot, there’s really not much of one. Instead the author explores the relationship between Tilly and her mother, with a strong theme of mental health alongside. The reader is taken on the journey of Tilly’s childhood, Tilda’s adulthood and the reasons why her upbringing went so awry. It wasn’t exciting, but it was emotional. In fact, one scene in this book was described as “emotional armageddon” and I think that’s a perfect description for the entire novel.

I found each character complex and moving, with a huge dollop of sparkling individuality. Although, I did find it a little difficult to find my footing when I first began reading this book, it was unclear to me if the character was relevant and how they connected to the story, because each character was so original and beautifully described that it seemed such a red flag for the author to put in so much effort into the creation of each of these fictional beings, and not have them in a bigger, main role within the story. Admittedly, I was having to dip in and out of the novel at first because of real life responsibilities, which, by the way, I wouldn’t recommend – setting down this novel or indulging in obligatory duties.

“He nods and smiles and chats to his customers as he glides easily through the intricate patterns woven by social interactions, balancing plates and cups and saucers like a circus juggling act on ice skates. I’m more like the clown with too-big shoes, who gets squirted in the fact with water from the fake flower.”

As each perception alternated, so did the prose. The author decided to write Tilda’s point of view in first person, whereas have Tilly in mostly third, but sometimes first. This gave me readers whiplash. And made me uneasy. Which is why this wasn’t a five star for me. Although the writing was poignant, resoundful, and utterly soulful, I couldn’t seem to settle in.

However; thankfully I did find that it started to come together at the halfway mark. I realised that the first half is clearly just to engage with the reader whilst the second half guides the readers into gingerly exploring a fraught relationship between mother and daughter. So after rubbing my whiplashed neck, I began to see a storyline emerging. The storyline I saw emerging wasn’t the ‘big picture’, though; with the allusions to Daniel, I thought the writing would take a more romantic approach, similar to
Truths and Triumps of Grace Atherton
, instead it leaned more towards
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
, but it also stood out on it’s own merit with an impressive sheer originality. Even though the story didn’t take the romance route, there’s enough adorable intimacy within the writing to make me want to melt into the novel myself.

“He grabs me by both arms and kisses me passionately on the lips. It’s not exactly Love Actually, but it’s a start. Of course, if this was a film, there would have been a spontaneous round of applause from the customers in the cafe at this point, but in real life, there’s a rather embarrassed and very English hush, followed by one of the old ladies remarking, ‘That’s all very well, but when’s he going to take our order?'”

In fact, the talent Ruth Hogan has for writing makes me want to bawl my eyes out, it’s so instantly compelling and has such a whimsical quality to it, as well as a depth that could challenge an onion with the amount of layers it holds.

I also have to applaud the delicate recurring theme of mental illness that held a sturdy place in the story. I found it extremely moving and I think that the author approached a difficult subject in a respectful way. Letting the mental health issues grow important whilst describing such inner anguish in a plaintive and graceful way.

“They have put me in the asylum. Stevie and that bloody doctor. I’m not myself, apparently. Well, I pity the poor sod that I am. I’m so tired. I’m too tired to be anyone, let alone myself.”

I found this book to be an incredible emotional roller coaster, I’m not sure I knew what was going on at every height and drop, but I enjoyed the ride.

Thank you to the publisher Two Roads and Net Galley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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