Orange Prize Other

Two More Oranges

The Pink Hotel

The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard

Five words from the blurb: girl, Los Angeles, mother, photographs, men

The Pink Hotel is the story of a seventeen-year-old English girl who flies to Los Angeles for her mother’s funeral. Abandoned as a toddler, she knows little about her mother and so takes the opportunity to discover as much as she can about her life. She achieves this by finding the men her mother was close to and forming her own relationships with them.

The book started really well and was packed with vivid descriptions that gave an immediate sense of place:

Her bedroom reeked of cigarette ash and stale perfume. Two ashtrays were packed with lipstick-stained filters as if she’d just popped out for another pack. A suspender belt hung from a chest of drawers, a mink scarf was curled like roadkill at the floor next to her bed.

I connected with her and felt immense sympathy for her isolated position.

Unfortunately everything went down-hill after about 50 pages. She formed intimate relationships with one man after another – it was seedy and I became bored by the repetitive nature of the plot. It symbolised important things about personal discovery and growing up to be like your mother, but this storyline held no interest to me and I skimmed about 100 pages.

The ending was well done, but I’m afraid that books with this type of storyline rarely appeal to me.

The Blue Book

The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy

Five words from the blurb: Atlantic, liner, fake, affection, deceiving

The Blue Book is set on a liner that is heading towards America. On board are a varied group of people, including Elizabeth and her boyfriend Derek, and by coincidence, Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend, Arthur. Arthur is a magician and con-man and throughout the book it is difficult to establish exactly who is telling the truth and who is being conned….

I initially loved the structure of the book and the way the narrator directly addresses the reader:

And you’re a reader – clearly – here you are reading your book, which it was made for. It loves when you look, wakes when you look, and then it listens and it speaks. It was built to welcome your attention and reciprocate with this: the sound it lifts inside you. It gives you the signs for the shapes of the names of your thoughts in your mouth and in your mind and this is where they sing, here at the point where you both meet.

Unfortunately things degenerated quickly and I became frustrated by the experimental structure. I couldn’t work out what was happening and the long stream-of-consciousness sections only deepened this problem.

I found it impossible to bond with any of the characters and so I began to skim read – especially the stream-of-consciousness sections. I know this means I’ll have missed some of the more subtle aspects of the story, but it was the only way I made it to the end, which was as clever as I expected it to be.

If you enjoy puzzling over complicated books then you’ll find a lot of rewards in this book, but it was all too much for me.

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