Nancy McKibben's Reviews > The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
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Recommended for: those who like British humor

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

I was familiar with the title only because of the movie (and in fact, the original title from 2004 was These Foolish Things), so I was a bit surprised to find that the hotel of the title is, in fact, more in the way of a retirement home, located in Bangalore, India. The characters who end up there, all British citizens in their 70s and older, are alone in the world, or may as well be, as they are in varying degrees of estrangement from their children, some of whom are appalled at the thought of their parents spending their twilight years abroad, and some of whom cannot wait to push their aging parents from the nest.

Although this could be a depressing read, the novel is redeemed by its humor. Here is a description of the reprobate Norman, as seen by his son-in-law (who is Indian):

“Barely a week had passed and already Ravi wanted to murder his father-in-law. Norman was a retired structural engineer, a monumental bore, and a man of repulsive habits. . . His amorous anecdotes, like a loop of Muzak, reappeared with monotonous regularity. Already Ravi had heard, twice this week, the one about catching the clap in Bulawayo.”

It is Ravi whose concept it is to send aging parents to India, and his cousin Sonny, who lives in Bangalore, partners with him to turn the dilapidated Marigold Hotel into a home for the elderly. A shabby, charming habitat, the hotel is at once a last bastion for a vanished era of colonial British life, and a means of introducing its inhabitants to real Indians.

The various retirees - a BBC journalist, a vague pensioner, an ageing femme fatale, and a number of others - form relationships with other and with their Indian hosts.The author skillfully balances her narrative between the hope offered by these new relationships and the melancholy of death and aging.

If you were less than charmed by the film, whose plot and theme veer wildly from the original, please give the book a chance. As so often happens, it is ten times better than the movie it inspired.
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Reading Progress

November 14, 2012 – Started Reading
November 15, 2012 – Finished Reading
November 27, 2012 – Shelved
January 4, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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