The Pink Hotel, by Anna Stothard, was originally published in the UK in late 2011; it was long-listed for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction, but for whatever reason it wasn’t set to publish in the U.S. until this April. You’d think that an Orange Prize long-list would be enough to get international attention…but you know those women’s prizes.
The Pink Hotel is the story of a nameless female protagonist (I looked everywhere and couldn’t figure out her name) who comes to L.A. from London after her mother, who left when the protagonist was three, has been killed in a motorcycle crash. She steals a suitcase full of her mother’s clothes from her wake and then sort of wanders around LA tracking down people her mother knew.
The protagonist [wow, it is awkward trying to talk about her without a name]— is a quiet girl; she’s only 17 and manages to mostly stay out of trouble in LA, which is impressive. She does sleep with a couple guys—like her **spoilers** mother’s first husband and this other dude that photographed her mother at one point **end spoilers**. There’s a mystery element as well—why is her mother’s widower so desperate to get this suitcase back? Why does she keep getting mugged? What’s David’s relationship to her mother, anyway? Where is she getting the money to buy food, anyway?
In between all this craziness, Stothard writes some absolutely gorgeous sentences. Like take this one—“The way she buttered bread for chip butties was like a man putting suntan lotion on his new bride, or a priest at the rosary.”
Or this really long one: “Grandpa taught me the word “quiddity”, which is like “essence”, only better. It’s a word that describes exactly what is so compelling about good words. A good word captures the quiddity of its meaning, the dripiness of dripping and the phosphorescence of a phosphorescent light. The geckoness of being a gecko. The trouble is, in the day-to-day reality of life, things are so much more complex. It’s hard to pinpoint the quiddity of people or relationships or conversations, because as soon as you do, it will shift slightly, and the quiddity will be different.”
I love that word—quiddity. I’ve never heard it before, but I’m going to find a way to use it if only for the look of perplexity on my victim.
Oh, and have I mentioned that this was published when Stothard was only 27? Or that her first novel was published when she was only 19? No big.
As a whole, I felt like it showed a lot of promise—but maybe failed to deliver on it. The ending was pretty cliché and inevitable. I won’t share, but I can say that I figured it out about halfway through—at least part of the reveal. I would absolutely pick up the next book that this author wrote, though, if just to see if the promise was fulfilled that time around.
Four stars for being almost perfectly awesome, but falling down at the end.
Releasing in the U.S. April 23, 2013. I received this title for free from NetGalley in return for a fair and honest review.