The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
Originally published in 2004 as These Foolish Things, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach is a book that I enjoyed so much that I am going to recommend it to everyone who will listen.
For many of us, reading is an escape from the concerns of our daily lives – a time out, when we can disappear into a world that is not our own. When I choose a novel to read I am looking for a book that takes me to another place – one so absorbing that the characters become real – writing that is a pleasure to read – and that “something” that cannot be described that makes a particular book so much more satisfying than others. There are writers like Bernard MacLaverty, William Trevor, Ian McEwan, Colm Toibin, Julian Barnes – you know what I mean – who write with such beauty that their books are what we call literature. Then there are the next best – the really good writers whose books rise above most and present readers with a really well-written, pleasure to read, entertaining, insightful, and sometimes, funny story. Deborah Moggach is one of these, and her novel The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is of those books you just don’t want to put down, and as soon as you’ve finished you want to share it with a friend.
Recently made into a film, just opening in England, the novel The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will be re-discovered by readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Watching the trailer for the film we see a couple of familiar faces from Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton, along with Judi Dench, as cast members. The story line seems to be quite different from the novel, so as much as I’d like to see the film I’m not sure about seeing it while the novel is fresh in my mind. I want to savour this novel a little longer before seeing it changed by a filmmaker.
The story begins in England, where we meet Dr. Ravi Kapoor, an Indian immigrant, his wife Pauline, a travel agent, and her father, Norman Purse. Norman is living with Pauline and Ravi, after being kicked out of yet another retirement home. Ravi and Pauline are not alone in their attempt to find an affordable and congenial residence for their parent. We meet a number of other older men and women – mostly women – and their adult children who do not want to live together – or alone - but cannot find a better solution. Until Ravi and his cousin Sonny come up with a brilliant idea – take over a failing hotel in Bangalore. Built in 1865, this grand building retains the charm of the days of the Raj, and is the perfect place to convert as a home for aging Brits. What better a place for them than in the warm – and inexpensive – climate of India?
And the fun begins, with the reader following along as this group of strangers meet each other, form relationships, explore an unfamiliar world, examine the past and contemplate the future over the coming months. There is some sadness for those missing a spouse after a good marriage, or regretting the estrangement of a child, now a distant grown man or woman missed by their parent. There is a great deal of sex – most of it great fun – in fantasy or fact.
Imagine if Faulty Towers was transported to India and filled with pensioners. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is altogether tremendous fun and a thoroughly “good read.” Guaranteed.