Sometimes it is fun to revisit an author or book we may have read a long time ago or to try a book by an author who once had their hands firmly grasped about the neck of the bestseller list. Such was the case for me when my Bookbub threw “Hotel” onto the list. I was in need of a story and this book provided it.
In the current edition, the author included a forward noting that the book had originally been written in the 1960’s at a time when the South, and the whole country in fact, were in the process of desegregating. He wanted to note that some of the ideas and the language had become dated. I thought that was insightful and useful for younger readers who may not have realized the significance or realized when the book was actually written.
Set in the fictional St. Gregory Hotel in New Orleans, the book is set over a one week period in the life of the hotel. The book is broken into days of the week and each day into several smaller chapters. I applaud the author: he really did his homework in terms of getting into the inner workings of the hotel business and showing what goes on behind the scenes. No area of the hotel is spared – we see it all, from the basement to the penthouse.
Set against the day to day workings, there are other stories being told. A failing effort to secure the financial future by the current owner; an attempt at take over by the owner of a burgeoning hotel chain (possibly a nod to Conrad Hilton); scandal among the staff; a thief who specializes in working hotels and a romance (or two) between a hotel employee, his subordinate and a local socialite.
While none of this makes for difficult reading, I can tell you, I was highly entertained. Given the time period, there were several times I reflected on the tv series “Mad Men” while reading this book and considered that a series set against the time period with the stories being told in this book, would be well received by cable with the current trend towards telling some of the stories of the late twentieth century.
This is a book meant to be enjoyed and although dated, it was not detrimental to my enjoyment. If anything, I think time enhanced it. I also have to tip my hat to Mr. Hailey. The writing was refreshing. He uses a more formal, authorial style but the experience of reading his words was wonderful. There were some older terms that one rarely comes across in writing anymore but I really reveled in an opportunity to enjoy something that didn’t use much (if any) slang. I don’t think there was a curse word among the text and although I have no aversion to that, the f word is used so much now in writing and speech that it was noticeable by its omission! That makes a statement about us as a society – not sure if it is good or bad but it is a statement.
If you are a younger reader and want a peek at the hotel industry in the 1960’s, this is a fun way to peek at it. If you are an older reader but haven’t picked up a Hailey book in a while, please re-visit this author. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.