Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Last Hotel by Emily St John Mandel


This novel opens in the lobby of the Hotel Caiette, a luxury hotel.  It is on an island in Vancouver, accessible only by boat.  The hotel is owned by Jonathan Alkaitis who is extremely wealthy from his work as an investment manager.  Jonathan is expected to arrive that night.  Vincent is a woman in her twenties, adrift in life and working as a bartender in the hotel.  Her half-brother, Paul, is also working there but as a handyman.  There is also a shipping magnate, Leon, sitting in the lobby when a horrible message is discovered written on the glass windows.

Over the next several years, we follow these characters in their lives.  Viincent leaves the island when Jonathan does and becomes his mistress.  She is whisked from a mundane existence to one of in the land of the wealthy.  Jonathan is not only managing an investment firm but is also involved in a Ponzi scheme where he is steadily stealing the money of his investors, Leon being one of them.  One woman sees through the scheme and pursues Jonathan for years until she is able to bring him and his scheme down.  

This work is reminiscent of Emily St. John Mandel's earlier works.  It has a dreamlike feel as the characters all seem adrift in various ways.  Paul and Vincent are drifting through life, going and doing what circumstance puts in front of them.  Jonathan is living on borrowed time as he knows that eventually his scheme will be discovered.  The characters attempt to make lasting connections but those also seem unreal, transparent and temporary.  As the book ends, the various players find resolutions in their lives although mostly not as they had envisioned them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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