Alma Books, 2013.
I saw this one’s front cover staring out at me from the shelves of my local Library. I couldn’t resist a story featuring an Art Deco hotel, now could I?
The titular hotel is in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Our young female narrator, who is never named, has travelled there incognito from London for the wake of her mother Lily, who abandoned her to the care of her father when she was just three years old and Lily herself only seventeen. That Lily must have given birth to her daughter at only fourteen years of age is mentioned only in passing and, astonishingly, is only referred to once more – at about page 160.
Lily has died in a motorcycle accident aged thirty two (so fifteen years later, in which time she has had two more husbands, August and Richard.) At the wake, the narrator glides through the proceedings all but unnoticed – she has a talent for being inconspicuous – bathes in Lily’s scummy bath, witnesses a man remove a photograph from Lily’s room and herself takes a suitcase full of things belonging to Lily away with her, but is briefly noticed by a Richard almost comatose with drugs.
Resting on a bench near the hotel she is spoken to by David, the man who stole the photograph. She tells him she is twenty two – though it transpires later she is indeed only seventeen. It turns out David is a photographer who photoshot Lily when she was working as a model, hence stealing the photo.
Living out of Lily’s suitcase and investigating her mother’s life she encounters August and has sex with him. Though omitting to tell him who she really is she strikes up a relationship with David as she drifts through the seamier side of life in LA trying to avoid having to give the suitcase back to Richard, who has sent a heavy to recover it.
Beyond trying to establish some sort of connection with her mother the motivation of the narrator is obscure. None of the characters is sympathetic – even the narrator’s father whom she left for LA with no warning, having stolen his wife’s credit card. The relationship of the US characters with the events of Lily’s life and death there are all tied up too tightly to be convincing.
Stothard is a British writer who spent some time in the USA. The text is peppered with Usianisms which initially failed to ring true for a seventeen year old narrator from England though we deduce some way into the book that she stayed on in the States.
This was okay, easy enough to read but inconsequential.
“Sunk” count 5, “shrunk” 1, tie-die 1, a newsagents – missing the apostrophe before the “s” and there was a remerged for “re-emerged.”