Hotel by Arthur Hailey
Rating: 4 Stars
Description: This is the story of the inside of a grand hotel in New Orleans in the 1960s. There are secrets on top of secrets, corrupt employees, guests who aren't what they seem, guests who are what they seem and crisis after crisis.
Why I Picked This Book: When I was in college I used to buy my books almost exclusively at a used bookstore near the university. The crowd was an odd mix of university kids and older people. Arthur Hailey was one of those names that there was always a substantial stack of books from. I had lumped him in with other older dated authors and never though much about him until I stumbled upon this re-release of Hotel on NetGalley. The summary intrigued me and I decided to give him a try.
My Impression: At the beginning of the book is a forward written by Arthur Hailey himself talking about how the book came to be, the TV show that it inspired and the reasons for why it was being re-released. If I had any reservations about the book the forward erased them. Hailey comes across as just plain nice and his comment regarding his horror at how often his characters were smoking made me smile.
This is a hard book to review because there's just so much - so many characters, so many different story lines, so much politics and looking the other way. However, with all the chaos and all the craziness the human-ness comes through strongly. Some of these characters are so likable and some are just despicable and most are in between but they're all real. They're all people you've walked past or dealt with. This book could have been an impenetrable sludge of characters with random details being thrown at you right and left but in Hailey's expert hands it wasn't. In Hailey's expert hands the St. George is a real place. It's so expertly drawn you can see it when you close your eyes. There's a lot tackled in this pretty substantial book. Hailey touches on racism, class-ism, sexual assault, crime, the costs of bad management, blackmail, poor little manipulative rich girls, mistakes following you through life and many other topics. All this happens without it feeling like Hailey has a list of topics he's trying to check off or becoming impossibly confusing. The ending is wrapped up beautifully sweet and dramatic and tragic all at the same time.
This is a very long book and while it doesn't feel like it's overlong my attention-span isn't fantastic this time of year with the Tornado being out of school and a garden to work on so it took me much longer to read than I think it would've if I'd read it in say, January. Also, since this book was originally published around 1965 the technology is a bit out of date. They talk about room keys, hot water heater tanks and other things that have disappeared from modern day hotels. However, this feels more like a snapshot of what it was like then versus hopelessly dated and irrelevant.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, much to my surprise I would. I really enjoyed the way Hailey is able to take a huge ensemble cast and really give you a full and fleshed out picture of the community in a short period of time.
Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes definitely. If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a hotel this would be a great book for you. Even though the technology is a bit dated the human element still feels very fresh.