Adam's Reviews > The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
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's review
May 12, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: india
Read from May 12 to 16, 2012

This book disappointed me.

It was first published (in 2004) with the title “Those Foolish Things.” It was later renamed “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” following the release in 2011 of the film with that name, which is based on it.

I read the book because I had seen the film and enjoyed it, and also because unlike the film, which is mostly set in a small town in Rajasthan, the novel is set mostly in Bangalore, a city that I know quite well.

Had I not seen the film first, I might have abandoned the book before reading too far into it. The first section of the book provides a series of realistic portrayals of the fears of elderly retired people facing rejection by the younger generation and also anticipating their gradual decline towards death. However, I pressed on with reading this well-paced novel because I knew from the film that things were likely to start looking up as the people, who were being described, were about to take off to spend the rest of their retirement in a hotel in India.

I don’t know whether the author has actually visited India, but I got the feeling from reading this book that she might not have done so. Although the book is not exactly about India, I felt that the author did not transport me to India. She did not allow me to visualise a real place as I read her book.

Some of the retired English people in the hotel in Bangalore used email. This suggests to me that the writer was writing about recent times. However, the Bangalore that she describes does not sound nearly as sophisticated as the city actually is. I thought as I read the book that she could have been describing almost anywhere, throwing in a few local terms to remind the reader that it was India rather than anywhere else.

Sevearal specific things particularly irritated me about this book. One occurred on page 169 of my edition. Dorothy and Douglas are discussing something between themselves. The proof-reader and the editor failed to spot the subject of the sentence: “Donald paused” is ‘Donald’ rather than ‘Douglas’, which it was supposed to be. This is careless in a best seller. On page 186, another problem occurred. Evelyn, one of the retired Brits, is given a business card, which reads ‘Dr Gulvinder Gaya, BA (Failed)’. The reason that Dr Gaya included the sad outcome of his degree is, I believe, to tell the recipient of his business card that he managed to gain admission into a university, which in itself was an achievement to be proud of. I hope that I am wrong, but I had the impression that the author chose to include this for reasons that may have had more to do with making fun of the Indian, than for any other reason. Another small gripe, if I am permitted to make any more of them, is that twice Ms Moggach refers to visiting a temple at ‘Halebib’. Was she inventing a new temple site or did she incorrectly spell the name Halebid, which is a real temple of some note a few hours drive from Bangalore?

Despite my reservations about Ms Moggach’s portrayal of India and the Indians, this novel is a creditable effort to illustrate the fears and concerns of those in the twilight of their lives.

The best thing about Ms Moggach’s book is that it inspired someone to make an excellent film, whose plot and sympathetic portrayal of India and the Indians is far better than the original story upon which it is loosely based.
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Reading Progress

05/13/2012 page 72
09/21/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Lori (new)

Lori Berhon That's so disappointing, Adam! After seeing the film, I was wondering about where the book might go into greater depth about the characters (both back-stories and their experiences during the plot period). It sounds as if the actors did all the heavy lifting. Fortunately, Madden cast the kinds of actors who can create three-dimensions off three lines and a whisper.

message 2: by Adam (new) - rated it 1 star

Adam I like your last sentence.

message 3: by Shelley (new)

Shelley Just yesterday I saw the film and agree with Lori. How disappointing to read that the book was less than expected. I also know Bangalore and didn't realize that the book was based there! Pity the film wasnt. Thanks for the review, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, its portrayal of Indians and the concerns of older folk.

message 4: by Adam (new) - rated it 1 star

Adam The film, as I have already said, is wonderful. I felt that the city near Jaipur, used in the film, matches what the kind of place that Moggach attempted to portray not all that successfully, I feel) as Bangalore.

message 5: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Loved the film. Sorry to hear the source was disappointing.

Sharon I saw the film three times before buying the book, and I am already terribly disappointed. The film is so much better.

message 7: by Lily (new)

Lily Thank you for this review. I did the same with 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'. I've never come across a book which is worse than the film adaptation before but I've learnt my lesson to beware. Thank goodness for the film producers who bring life to such potentially incredible stories.

message 8: by Alanah (new)

Alanah Thank you for your review, I won't be picking this book up. I loved the movie and was also hoping that the book would just add more to the experience.

message 9: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Great review, I will not read it and stick to the movie. While I do not doubt that some aspects are okay, I'm not really okay with misrepresenting a place or a people.

message 10: by lex (new)

lex hey

message 11: by Dianae (new) - added it

Dianae Im enjoying the book and would encourage those who judge it sight unseen to check it out of a Library to try it before rejection sight unseen.

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