Title: Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel
Author: Ruth Hogan
Publisher: Two Roads
Publication Date: 7 February 2019
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who liked playing with ghosts and matches. She loved fizzy drinks, swear words, fish fingers and Catholic churches, but most of all she loved living in Brighton in Queenie Malone’s magnificent Paradise Hotel with its endearing and loving family of misfits – staff and guests alike. But Tilly’s childhood was shattered when her mother sent her away from the only home she’d ever loved to boarding school with little explanation and no warning.
Many years later, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother’s unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only friend is her dog, Eli. But when her mother dies Tilda goes back to Brighton and with the help of her beloved Queenie sets about unravelling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel, only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all.
My husband insists that the first line in a novel is the most important. It has to set the scene, introduce a character, provide context, generate intrigue AND, most importantly, it has to capture the reader’s attention. So, when I read the first line of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel – “My mother killed my father when I was seven years old” – I knew I was on to a winner. That line ticks all of the criteria above and more. How could anyone not feel compelled to continue reading?!
Returning to Brighton following her mother’s death, Tilda finds herself at a metaphorical crossroad and decides to stay for an extended period whilst deciding in which direction her life should head next. Initially somewhat ambivalent about her mother’s death, the discovery of some old diaries gives Tilda the opportunity to get to know her mother better and to understand her childhood from an adult perspective.
The book is written in two parts and told in a split timeline with one narrative from the older Tilda’s perspective as she re-visits her childhood haunts and one from the younger Tilly who explains how Tilda’s childhood has shaped her present life. The two narratives come together at certain points, revealing important events from Tilda’s past.
As with Hogan’s earlier works, the characters are vibrant and appealing. Tilda (formerly Tilly) is 46 years old single and wary of people. She is cautious, reserved and slow to trust people. This is a striking contrast to the bright, bubbly and adventurous little girl that she used to be. In part 2 of the book we meet Queenie Malone and her eccentric mother. They are simply marvellous supporting characters, adding a great sense of fun to the book from the moment they first appear within the pages. With the eclectic mix of staff and residents at the Paradise Hotel, it’s not difficult to see why Tilly so adored her time there. I should also mention the other supporting characters of Daniel, Joseph Geronimo and Miss Dane, all of whom help Tilda to understand her past and move forward with her life.
Despite the colourful array of human characters, my favourite and the most endearing character has to be Eli the dog. Hogan always adds a hint of the supernatural into her books and, in this case, Eli is one of those hints (I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that). I was reading a book earlier today in which the author said that when a person dies they don’t leave us but instead leave an imprint or a negative of themselves that stays with us, in a similar way that an amputee still experiences an itch in a missing limb. I suppose this is what we mean when we say that someone’s spirit stays with us. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do like the thought that a person or animal’s imprint can remain with you after they’re gone. It’s a comforting thought.
The story is ultimately a beautifully written, tender exploration of the mother-daughter relationship, the complexities of families and the power of friendship. The book also explores some darker issues of mental health, depression and loss. If that all sounds a bit deep for you, don’t worry! Those issues are dealt with gently and sensitively, focusing more on acceptance, forgiveness and hope. It is a warm, poignant and thought-provoking tale. Ultimately, Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel proves to be a charming and uplifting read, like a burst of sunshine on a drizzly day.
Thanks to Two Roads and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of the book for review.
About the Author (in her own words)
I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford: my sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me. as a child I read everything I could lay my hands on: The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets and gravestones. I was may about dogs and horses, but didn’t like daddy-long-legs or sugar in my tea.
I studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths College which was brilliant, but then I came home and got a ‘proper’ job. I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (I was definitely a square peg in a round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage) before a car accident left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. It was going well, but then in 2012 I got cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things.
I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering partner (who has very recently become my husband – so I can’t be that bad!). I am a magpie, always collecting treasures, and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is ‘antimacassar’ and I still like reading gravestones.
AUTHOR’S CONTACT LINKS