The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

August 27, 2013

best exotic marigold hotel Plot summary (from the publisher): When Ravi Kapoor, an overworked London doctor, reaches the breaking point with his difficult father-in-law, he asks his wife: “Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.” His prayer is seemingly answered when Ravi’s entrepreneurial cousin sets up a retirement home in India, hoping to re-create in Bangalore an elegant lost corner of England. Several retirees are enticed by the promise of indulgent living at a bargain price, but upon arriving, they are dismayed to find that restoration of the once sophisticated hotel has stalled, and that such amenities as water and electricity are . . . infrequent. But what their new life lacks in luxury, they come to find, it’s plentiful in adventure, stunning beauty, and unexpected love.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • The idea of older folks retiring to a hotel in a different country seemed like a good one. They would have naturally felt a kinship for each other despite being total strangers. The book should have focused more on their lives together at the hotel and how they became friends than what they did separately in England.
  • I’m glad the characters seemed very reluctant to simply fade off into oblivion. Most of them were only in their early 70s, which is far too young to while away the years in a rocking chair.
  • The young workers from the call center were sort of interesting. I would have liked a deeper exploration of the friendships between young and old than what the author gave, and it would have been cool to see one of the retirees find good immigration lawyers to help make some of the call center workers’ dreams come true.

Disliked:

  • The book got off to a tremendously slow start. Why spend all that time highlighting the most odious character (Norman) of the bunch? What a waste.
  • Norman’s backstory wasn’t the only boring one. The others were fairly dull as well. As I mentioned above, I think the book would have been better if more time were spent on their lives in India.
  • Actually the pace never picked up until perhaps the last 10 percent of the book when the author was wrapping things up by telling what happens to everyone. Prior to that, she just kept tossing out random events that affected the characters in some way or other.
  • I thought it was dumb that Norman died (of shock?) while visiting a prostitute that turned out to be a eunuch. This was probably intended to be funny on some level, but just had me rolling my eyes.
  • There were way too many characters to keep track of, and the task was made infinitely more difficult by the fact that none of them had a very distinguished personality. They all sort of blended together, making it virtually impossible for me to keep them straight, much less identify, empathize, or sympathize with any of them.

Rating:

From what I’ve heard and read, the film version of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is superior to the book (which might explain why the book’s title was changed to better reflect the link). I haven’t seen the movie, but I can acknowledge that it wouldn’t be all that difficult to top the novel. This book was filled with too many underdeveloped characters having mostly separate experiences both in England and in India. If there had been more of a unifying thread, I might have appreciated the stories more. But as the book stands, I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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