Saturday, 30 November 2013

Book review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

The first I heard of Deborah Moggach's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (originally called These Foolish Things) was when the film - starring a bevy of Britain's best acting talent - was released.

I haven't seen the film, but picked up the book for a bit of light reading based on the fact that the film trailer amused me.

Doctor Ravi Kapoor is fed up with his father-in-law Norman - an insufferable old man who can't seem to keep his manners in check or his hands away from places they shouldn't be. When Ravi meets his cousin Sonny, a businessman from India on a trip to London, the two hatch a plan to open a retirement home/hotel in Bangalore.

And so a rag tag bunch of pensioners find themselves living in a hotel past its sell by date, learning about a new world while also coming to terms with the art of being old.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a fun read, and a quick one, with plenty of amusing moments and plenty of blue humour of the likes I wasn't expecting. Still, considering its main characters are a bunch of pensioners who between them have seen and done it all and who are now living each day unsure of whether they'll be around for the next, the honesty shouldn't have been that surprising.

Moggach's cast of characters is vast - there are countless residents at the Marigold Hotel, plus loved ones back home (some of whom we visit, some we don't), plus all the people who work at or around the hotel who the elderly encounter in their day to day lives. With so many characters floating around, Moggach is only able to delve deeply into the lives of a few. This meant there were some who I'd like to have seen more of, but whose storylines were left a little more vague because of space constraints - including the sweet but barely seen Graham, and the prickly Dorothy, whose back story was obviously the most interesting.

I did grow to love some characters, including Evelyn, who morphs from being a bit part to the heart of the novel. I perhaps could have done with more of her and less of some of the others, like fellow pensioner Muriel, or Evelyn's daughter Theresa and son Christopher. It was Evelyn who I felt was best able to get to the heart of what it means to be elderly, and how to cope with the difficulties advanced age brings, but also the freedoms.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an interesting examination of age, and of love, but while I liked it while I was reading it, it's not a book I would reread, or one I will spend too much time thinking about.

How I got this book: Purchased

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