Title: Zenith Hotel
Author: Oscar Coop-Phane
The lives of several Parisians are linked together through the use of local prostitute, Nanou.
I really wanted to like this story. I had read so many great reviews about it. It was dark, gritty and was set in Paris. And ok, having had a lifelong love affair with France’s capital, I was willing to see it in a less than glamorous way. However, I didn’t get any of that. The setting could have been anywhere. There was no seedy underbelly of the specific location. The Arrondissements just merged into one.
The story itself thinly hangs together by the encounters with the prostitute Nanou. I think the main problem that I had with the text is my original problem with short stories; they feel underdeveloped. This is especially the case with Zenith Hotel. If Coop-Phane had just stuck with the protagonist and one punter then maybe the story would have felt a bit more developed.
I understand that the technique of having a few bit characters emphasises the lonely life of prostitution and the isolation that Nanou feels on a aily basis. I just don’t think it necessarily worked as a short story.
Furthermore, I don’t think that we, as readers, were able to empathise with Nanou. She is very one dimensional and the further into the story we got, the less we seemed to know about her. She didn’t develop. The story didn’t develop and neither did my liking of Zenith Hotel.
I was very disappointed.
Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane is available now.
Russian born Alena has decided to leave her country to come to the UK to find work. Like many migrants, Alena believes that the answer to hers and her family’s financial woes lies in the opportunity laden London. Having had her work placement set up by a family friend Alena travels to the UK full of optimism and dreams of a better life that includes financial stability, opportunity and designer clothes. What Alena isn’t prepared for is that her dream is a fallacy. Nor is she prepared for her dream to become a nightmare.
Someone well versed in the woes of everyday life in the UK is Dave. Dave is trying to get through each day under the radar; just do his job, get paid and go home. This is a rigmarole that suits the quiet life that he craves. He once had dreams of travel but all that has passed now. However, a chance encounter with Alena throws his world completely off kilter.
Can Dave’s peaceful nature quiet and calm the storm that is Alena’s life?
I won’t lie to you Thirst is a hard novel to read. Not because it is composed of difficult vernacular or in a different language but purely because Kerry Hudson gives the full nitty gritty on a dark and sinister topic; that topic being human trafficking and having immigrants being sold into the sex trade. At times I felt as if my heart was literally breaking for Alena. What made it worse is that she seemed to be unable to forgive herself for her situation; almost like she believed she deserved to be treated like a piece of meat on a market stall. It was truly harrowing.
But this is what makes Hudson such a good writer. She had my heart in my mouth with the desperation of Alena’s situation.
Dave’s story somewhat parallel’s Alena’s in the fact that they both get themselves into situations that they feel that they have no control over. Dave is trying to fulfil the wishes of his dying mother and gets himself trapped by a set of circumstances that were never part of his life plan. Both of the characters are trapped. Not only by what life puts in their way but how they both feel responsible for the way things are.
Their love story is lovely to follow. I think what makes it so enjoyable is the coy innocence of it all. You see them both giving the bare minimum of themselves away, slowly peeling away layers as their relationship grows. It was rather lovely to read.
Thirst is a quirky love story but be warned, if you read books for pure escapism then this book isn’t for you as it does deal with difficult subjects and has a very real insight into the sinister underbelly of the life that some immigrants face.
Thirst by Kerry Hudson is available now.
Brigitte Green has to escape. Her life in New Orleans has come to a crashing halt since her friend and mentor Rosa has died. Rosa’s last instruction to Brigitte was to go to Paris and find love, find someone to tango with.
Brigitte heeds this advice and high tails it to Paris to start a new life; a new life that doesn’t involve prostitution and shame. Brigitte wants to have a life that involves love and romance.
Enter Eva Laroche. Eva is working as a tour guide to subsidise her university education in law. She and Brigitte meet and initially despise each other but eventually their defences drop and the potential for romance blossoms.
So initially I read this book to indulge in my love for Paris; that was the defining factor in my choice of novel. I didn’t know what the subgenres of the book were (incidentally they are LGBT, family drama, history, romance etc) but what I got was a captivating story of love, not only of another person but also love of oneself.
The love story between Brigitte and Eva is a classic hate-turns-to-love story. You can’t help but root for them. You want them to get together and become LGBT heroines to parallel the historical love stories between women that Thrasher includes in First Tango in Paris. However, Brigitte is so ashamed of her past that she struggles to love and have pride in herself.
The historical elements of the story are fascinating. Unfortunately, I do not know enough about Parisian women through history (or their lesbian inclinations) to verify Thrasher’s writing. Either Thrasher has a creative mind and has manipulated historical events to suite her purpose or she has just thoroughly researched the historical elements. Whatever the truth is, this subject makes for interesting reading and made me want to read further into some of the key figures in French history.
I really enjoyed First Tango in Paris. The storyline flowed with effortless ease and the characters had me rooting for them. I can’t ask for much more in a novel.
First Tango in Paris by Shelley Thrasher is available in America on the 15th July 2014.