Author: Ali Smith
Original title: Hotel World
Edition Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
There are five characters, two relatives, three strangers: a homeless woman, a hotel receptionist, a hotel critic, the ghost of a hotel chambermaid, and the ghost’s sister. These women tell a story and it is through this story. The common link between all those characters is the Global Hotel. The dead girl Sara worked there as chambermaid and died in an accident falling in a shaft of a dumbwaiter. It is not clear till the chapter “Future in the past” was this an accident or the suicide. The homeless woman Else is begging in front of the hotel every day. One cold night she is allowed to take a room free of charge by a hotel receptionist Lise. The fourth person is Penny, the hotel critic is disturbed in her room by a chambermaid who is trying to open the shaft. Penny tried to help the girl and looking around for help. Then she meets Else on the flour and all 3 opened the shaft. The chambermaid is actually the dead girl’s younger sister who wanted to see the place of death and find some peace at last.
About the author:
Coping with grief and tragedy: After the sudden death of Sara Wilby we can see how the grief affects the people around and how each of then trying to cope with it. The only male character in this book apart from the father is Duncan, the witness to Sarah's death and his character shows that mourning is not exclusive to family or close personal friends of those who have died.
Sexuality/Sexual awakening: This topic is slightly covered. Sara Wilby's sexual awakening starts a week or two before her death when she meets the girl in the watch shop. Sarah is amazed and confused about this side of her attraction and suffering with the first love fears. The shop girl shared interest in Sara, which is only conveyed briefly near the end of the novel—reveal.
The flow of time: We can see a lot of indication through the story about time importance. How fragile the moment might be and how much a small fragment of time can contain.
I cannot remember a book recently which I was enjoying less than Hotel World. A book without story development, but only emotions and stream of conscience. I hope that all Ali Smith’s fans will ever forgive me, but I found this book utterly boring and unexciting. The anticipation of the story ranged from boring to frustrating. Some days I was forcing myself to get the book and continue reading. The Sara’s sister’s chapter was a total nightmare with 31 pages of unpunctuated stream of conscience writing. This was like I'd read poetry. The story stayed in the fog even though there are 5 main narrators. The only chapter that made any sense was chapter "Perfect". Here was at least some story and character development, some inner wishes and thought shared and some interaction between the characters.