“No. I wish to cancel that order and place another”.
When we generally say this in the hotels and restaurants and promptly another dish is served (or not served for whatever reasons) do we ever sit back and wonder what goes on behind the scenes? Sometimes we perhaps do, but what we imagine is probably only 1/100th of the actual hassle the hotel staff must have undergone to make that one thing available, not counting making it look absolutely hassle-free.
Arthur Hailey’s “Hotel” takes us through one such hotel in a detailed, rather immensely elaborate story. This one has multiple characters and inter-woven plots that somehow converge, to make a distinctly riveting narrative. This was my 100th book of 2017 and incidentally 1st of Hailey’s – couldn’t have been a better choice than this for my Popsugar prompt of “A Book set in a Hotel”.
The book took me back to my initial reading days when an exciting plot made up most of the story, with very little attention of the reader towards the language or other nuances. (Just to be clear, I am not discrediting the language here just that one doesn’t focus on that much). At the same time, I believe, Hailey’s “TV-Series’ish” tale was a good combination of character arcs and some bitter rumination of the Civil Rights’ Movement during the time (1964 to be precise), as well as subjects such as commercialism, capitalism, morality and loyalty. The role of women is sketched, perhaps, looking at those times. They don’t have a major story-line. That said there is certainly an aura of strength in the women, especially Dodo, who has been given a stereotype of a “dumb blonde”, but by the end of it all, looks like is much more than what she appears to be. There is no dramatization of reality. There is a vigorous portrayal of a need to be ethical and the conundrum associated with it when it comes to running certain major establishments and institutions especially in an age of fiscal boom.
Peter McDermott is a resourceful young assistant manager at St. Gregory, one of the oldest hotels of New Orleans. The owner of St. Gregory, Warren Trent, still believes in the values of customer service and human touch. Most of his patrons are a return-clientele and a many staff members are the ones who were employed by him right when the hotel was only a small inn. He has been refusing to give in to the phenomenon of chain-hotels which has engulfed the country – until of course now. St. Gregory is not doing great – with respect to management and finances. There is also tremendous level of debauchery going on at the ground level, the extent of which is hidden from Trent owing to his misplaced trust in his older staff. McDermott knows all of this and wants to change the way things are run, but owing to the obstinate nature of his employer has only failed so far.
The book starts on a busy Monday morning inside the hotel and we see Peter trying to tackle multiple things at a time. There is an intermittent moaning being heard from a room, a suspicion of a possible orgy in another one, a customer service issue raised by one of the wealthiest clients of the hotel, another sort of disturbance on one of the floors, an elevator issue and then there is his employer, who we see is quite worried because of a mortgage due for renewal by the end of the same week which is not a happy news. The bankers have issued a due date for foreclosure with an amount of $2mn.
The story takes us through various occurrences in the hotel for that full week and comes to a chilling climax. Some stuff is cliché and predictable but for some reason I wasn’t disappointed. Sometimes clichés make really good stories like this one. It doesn’t have any great interpretational requirement, neither is there a thrill of guessing any perpetrator, and yet, the reader wishes to know “What next?”
I have my gripes of course, which is why the lesser number of stars. Some details could have been curtailed. The intricate details of the working of an incinerator or an elevator sometimes become a tad bit drudged and unnecessary. We know these two machines will play a major part later after the first few lines and yet Hailey spends lengthy passages to drive the point home. There was a little disappointment somewhere with respect to one character. Nevertheless, I will read Hailey again simply because of the extensive research that Hailey put on show in this one.
(Trivia: Hailey resided in Hotel Roosevelt in New Orleans in 1964 for two months to research for this book)
Would love to hear your thoughts if you have read this book or any other book by Arthur Hailey.