Monday, 25 April 2011

The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard: review

Anna Stothard: subtle
Anna Stothard's second novel is slinky and sensuous and surprising. A seventeen-year old teenager flees London (where her father keeps a cafe, and where she's recently been expelled from a decent school) to go in search of her glamorous but useless mother, Lily: the only trouble is, Lily has recently been killed in a car accident somewhere in the deserts of California.

The novel follows Lily's daughter - we never learn her name - as she tries to find out anything about her distant, beautiful mother. The Pink Hotel of the title belonged to Lily. We first meet her daughter at the wake (which is more of a rave than a wake) where she steals a suitcase of her mother's clothes.

The suitcase leads her to various people connected with Lily. Our heroine keeps her identity concealed, and ends up having emotional relationships with two of the men connected to Lily. One of the key images of the novel is the entanglement of quantum particles, by which two particles, though separated by thousands of miles, will experience the same effects. Our heroine wants to be a version of her mother, going through all the things that she went through in order to get closer to her. She becomes entangled, too, with a man who was rather closer to her mother than even she could guess, which provides the novel with a quietly devastating denouement.

Los Angeles, in Stothard's novel, is a place of long bus rides, sweating hotel clerks and Armenian women who cryptically comment on everything. For our heroine it's a puzzle that needs to be solved: she's a jagged piece trying to find the rest of her game.

Stothard's novel is a slick and accomplished piece of writing. It manages to show all the subtleties of a young girl's life set against the primary coloured backdrop of a world where the obvious is all.

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