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The Pink Hotel: A Novel

The Pink Hotel: A Novel

3.0 2
by Anna Stothard

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"This book moved and provoked me in ways I can't fully articulate....Extraordinary."—Anna Paquin (True Blood)

A seventeen-year-old girl pieces together the mystery of her mother's life




"This book moved and provoked me in ways I can't fully articulate....Extraordinary."—Anna Paquin (True Blood)

A seventeen-year-old girl pieces together the mystery of her mother's life and death among the bars and bedrooms of Los Angeles in this dazzling debut novel.

A raucous, drug-fueled party has taken over a boutique hotel on Venice Beach—it's a memorial for Lily, the now-deceased, free-spirited proprietress of the place. Little do the attendees know that Lily's estranged daughter—and the nameless narrator of this striking novel—is among them, and she has just walked off with a suitcase of Lily's belongings.

Abandoned by Lily many years ago, she has come a long way to learn about her mother, and the stolen suitcase—stuffed with clothes, letters, and photographs—contains not only a history of her mother's love life, but perhaps also the key to her own identity. As the tough, resourceful narrator tracks down her mother's former husbands, boyfriends, and acquaintances, a risky reenactment of her life begins to unfold. Lily had a knack for falling in love with the wrong people, and one man, a fashion photographer turned paparazzo, has begun to work his sinuous charms on the young woman.

Told with high style and noirish flare, Anna Stothard's The Pink Hotel is a powerfully evocative debut novel about wish fulfillment, reckless impulse, and how we discover ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Lily Dakin's life on the wild side was a short one. Dead at 32, she had a child at 14 and a string of lovers and husbands. Her daughter, now 17, has almost no memories of the mother who abandoned her when she was a toddler. Still, the girl (accompanied by an unnamed narrator) is compelled to leave London to attend the wake in California. Her planned three-day trip gets derailed as she begins to seek out her mother's history through the men she loved and left. Alternately innocent and streetwise, wearing clothes stolen from her mother's closet, Lily's daughter slowly comes into her own skin. VERDICT This fictional memoir of loss and redemption, with its sympathetic narrator, will appeal to readers who like their coming-of-age stories on the seedier and melancholy side.—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC
Publishers Weekly
In Stothard's gritty but elegant U.S. debut, an English teenager travels alone to Los Angeles after the death of her estranged mother, Lily. Expelled from school and struggling with her father and stepmother, the unnamed girl sets off to learn more about the enchanting woman she barely knew. Lily turns out to have been a glamorous disaster, leaving a run-down party hotel and string of broken hearts in her wake. Clad in her dead mother's clothing, the girl blazes her own trail from the clues she finds in a suitcase stolen from Lily's apartment, hitting up old acquaintances and having sex with men from Lily's past. Keeping her identity a secret, the girl develops a relationship with a paparazzo Lily once modeled for, playing a dangerous game of subterfuge. The girl's self-destructive nature, along with other characteristics and motivations, remains unexplained, creating an unpredictable ride. Although these wanderings and discoveries about Lily never quite crystallize, Stothard's vivid descriptions of L.A.'s seedy underbelly make for an engaging read. Agent: Charlie Campbell, the Ed Victor Literary Agency (U.K.). (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“This book moved and provoked me in ways I can't fully articulate....Extraordinary.” —Anna Paquin (True Blood)

“Astonishing… the novel speeds to a stunner of an ending, one that is both surprising, shocking, and even inevitable…. While we may never receive the name of the narrator, thanks to Stothard's prodigious gifts and richly woven novel, we come to know her -- and what we know is unforgettable.” —Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe

“Stothard's prose is as lovely as it is lively… The Pink Hotel wisely and urgently illustrates the difficulty of truly knowing ourselves or anyone else.” —The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

“Sometimes mysterious, sometimes troubling, [The Pink Hotel is] a hypnotic account set among grifters, drifters, and modern bohemians.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

“[The narrator's] forlorn story is bound to make readers ache with sympathy… Stothard is a five-sense writer, as rare as the five-tool ballplayer…. [The] images, which shimmer in Stothard's accomplished, lyrical prose, carry us willingly along on her narrator's painful journey to self-realization.” —Heather McAlpin, The Washington Post

“Stylish… Captures an outsider's gape at sun-drenched Los Angeles.” —The New York Times

“[The Pink Hotel] is easy to read and impossible to put down--and that's before you get to the twist ending… I'm still trying to lift my jaw off the ground…. Perfect for summer reading.” —Nylon

“A noirish nod to the City of Angels.” —O, The Oprah Magazine (A Debut Novel to Pick Up Now)

“Startling.... The Pink Hotel is a spellbinding story about identity and inheritance, and how we know who we are.” —The Daily Beast

“Stothard's work is thoughtful and engaging, and she makes L.A. and its many denizens glow on the page like neon lights…. A satisfying read.” —ZYZZYVA magazine

“Gritty but elegant… [and] an unpredictable ride…. Stothard's vivid descriptions of L.A.'s seedy underbelly make for an engaging read.” —Publishers Weekly

“An emotional scavenger hunt…. Stothard's characterization of a teenage girl is spot on, and she has used her own knowledge of both Los Angeles and England to enrich the complex cultural backdrop against which her saga unfurls.” —Booklist

“Sometimes you have to steal your own heritage, and that's just what the narrator of Anna Stothard's debut does, with a cunning stealth that endears her to us across every page. Her escapades are at once fantastic and believable. You won't know this narrator's name, but you'll never forget her or The Pink Hotel.” —Tupelo Hassman, author of Girlchild

“Picture Carson McCullers mashed up with Tom Waits and David Lynch, and you get a sense of the unique, edgy novel you're holding in your hands. The Pink Hotel is mysterious, lyrical, and utterly absorbing, by turns funny and forlorn. Anna Stothard is a precise, insightful observer of what it means to be human, and her writing bristles with sexiness and suspense, love, loss, and longing. This is the best book I've read in years.” —Davy Rothbart, author of My Heart Is an Idiot

“Anna Stothard's writing feels both fresh and classic, with its gorgeous descriptions of Los Angeles's seductive and corrupting beauty, its opium dreams and a damaged yet enigmatic heroine. A blazing noir firecracker of a debut.” —Denise Hamilton, author of Damage Control

“Astonishingly good...Stothard's writing is accomplished and very engaging.” —Kate Saunders, The Times (London)

“A poignant novel about identity, and a love/hate letter to L.A.” —Glamour (London)

Kirkus Reviews
Arriving in LA too late for the funeral of the mother she never knew, the tough-cookie teenage heroine of this moody, Orange Prize longlisted debut starts her own coming-of-age journey. Determinedly, self-consciously noirish in tone, British novelist Stothard's first fiction follows an unnamed, English, 17-year-old girl piecing together the story of Lily, the parent who abandoned her at age 3. Brought up in London by her father, the girl is summoned to the U.S. by a hospital's phone call, but she only arrives in Venice Beach in time for Lily's wake, held at the Pink Hotel which she owned. On impulse, the girl helps herself to some of Lily's belongings, including a suitcase conveniently filled with photos and documents which will aid in the reconstruction of Lily's life. Danger follows in the form of Lily's ex, who wants the suitcase back; and romance in the form of David, an alcoholic paparazzo with whom the girl falls in love. Two characters dominate the story--the impenetrable narrator with a taste for pain and a take-no-prisoners attitude, implausibly confident for her years; and Tinseltown, seen in an unglamorous light during a heat-wave summer. Stothard's focus on these two helps disguise the scantiness of the story. Ignore the chick-lit-ish title. This story works hard to be worldly-wise and cool, and it sometimes succeeds.

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The Pink Hotel

A Novel
By Anna Stothard


Copyright © 2013 Anna Stothard
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781250026804


Her bedroom reeked of cigarette ash and stale perfume. Two ashtrays were packed with lipstick-stained filters as if she’d just popped out for another pack. A suspender belt hung from a chest of drawers, a mink scarf was curled like roadkill at the floor next to her bed. A mirror opposite the bed reflected an image of me lying fully clothed and out of place on the crinkled sheets. My haircut and body could have been that of a boy, but my oversized eyes made me look like a Gothic Virgin Mary from a museum postcard. I wore a sweat-stained T-shirt and a pair of navy-blue tracksuit bottoms. My skin still smelt faintly of grease and coffee from Dad’s café in London, but now the smell was mingled with dehydrated aeroplane air and smog from Los Angeles traffic.
Lily stared out at me from framed photographs around the room. In one photograph she was standing beside a motorcycle wearing a leather jacket. In another she was wearing a white T-shirt over a bikini and sitting cross-legged under a tree in the sunshine, laughing for the camera. In a third she was naked apart from vivid red lipstick and a floppy sunhat. Her skin in that last image was albino-white, as mine is, and also marked with four dark circles – heavy eyes and dark nipples. Her hair is black in the photograph, though, while mine is naturally blonde.
I got up from her bed and picked up a bottle of whiskey from a dresser near the door. There were no glasses, so I took a sip from the bottle and padded past her bed towards the bathroom. A pair of frilly knickers lay next to the toilet, and I tried not to let them touch my bare toes as I crouched to pee. Her bedroom was at the very top of a pink hotel in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. There’d been a funeral earlier in the day, but I hadn’t made it to the crematorium. By the time I arrived in Venice Beach, Lily’s wake had become a drunken vigil with over two hundred people dancing and talking and snorting and drinking all over the hotel. Nobody knew who I was, so I pulled my grubby baseball cap over my eyes and walked through the corridors as a child would walk through a cocktail party. I saw long fingernails and wet mouths; dilated eyes, bony shoulders and flashes of impossibly white teeth. I took a beer from an ice-packed bathtub and wandered uncomfortably around all five floors, examining people: an unshaven giant swigged vodka from a bottle and a skeletal middle-aged woman danced with her eyes closed in the middle of the room. There was a man with red hair who wore pointy snakeskin shoes and a half-open white shirt. People hovered around him and his freckled hands clenched into fists as he moved from guest to guest.
“I can’t believe it,” said a woman to the red-haired man.
“I keep thinking that she’s just late,” he replied, squeezing his freckled fists.
“Oh, sweetie,” said the woman, “she was always late, wasn’t she? She would have been late for her funeral.”
“She was late for our wedding,” the red-haired man continued. “Said she couldn’t find matching underwear.” A smile forced itself up through his frown, and others in the crowd laughed sadly. The red-haired man had a nasal twang like Bugs Bunny, which I guessed was a New York accent.
“You were a great team here,” someone said to him.
I watched the sweaty red-haired man for a few moments longer. When he turned away from me I couldn’t hear his conversation any more, so I continued through the carnival of mourners, eventually finding my way up towards the top of the hotel and a door marked “Private.” Through the keyhole I could see a bicycle and a pair of Rollerblades. I expected this private door to be locked, but something was stuck, and it opened with a yawning creak onto the bare wooden floorboards of a cramped corridor that smelt of air freshener and closed windows. It was a relief when the door behind me clicked closed and muffled the sounds from downstairs. There was a dusty naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling above my head and sand in the cracks between the floorboards at my feet. The walls of the hallway were poached-salmon pink, much paler than the bright stucco façade of the beachside hotel. Through a door frame to my left the kitchen contained only a blue Formica table and two wooden chairs with padded seats. Dirty glasses and burnt-out scented candles cluttered the table, and unwashed dishes filled the sink. Doors were open on either side of the corridor – a living room with a flat-screen TV, a toilet, a small study with a desk covered in papers. The only door that wasn’t open was the one at the end.
If it’s possible to feel nostalgia for things you’ve never known, then it was a mixture of nostalgia and curiosity that made me lie down on her sheets and run a bath in a tub scattered with millimetre-long armpit hairs caught on a tide line of scum from the last time she or her husband took a bath. The party reverberated underneath, and I locked the bathroom door to take off my clothes as she must have done a million times, although she was likely more elegant about it. She wouldn’t have nearly tripped as her ankles caught in the elastic of her sports trousers, and the various cuts and scrapes on her body probably didn’t burn as they accepted the hot water. Her scabs didn’t fray and dissolve in the heat as mine did. Her skin was probably flawless. I scooped bath water into my mouth and let it spill slowly down my bottom lip. Sitting on my haunches with my torso crouched over my knees and my nose just above the bubbles, all I could smell was steam. A moth watched from the window ledge above the tub, steaming her wings. Outside the window there was a bright-blue sky and palm trees. I flicked water at my mothy audience, and she scattered up towards the light bulb above the mirror.
I wondered what Dad was doing at that moment, and imagined him sitting at our greasy kitchen table biting his nails while his wife Daphne paced the room. Daphne would be trying not to shout about the stolen credit card, but every so often her voice would reach an almost inhuman pitch and then get cut off by its own aggression. Her bony fingers would be working their way repetitively through her mousy hair, while her shoes squeaked against the plastic tiles on our kitchen floor. Dad would be still and lost in thought, pretending to listen to Daphne repeat the same angry sentiments in slightly different ways until she was hoarse. Except this scene would have happened hours ago. It was midnight in Lily’s bedroom, so it would be tomorrow in my flat at home. They would be encased in the morning hush after a night of screaming, putting on clothes and pouring water on instant coffee and unlocking the café. Daphne’s lips would be pursed together, because she doesn’t like working Saturdays, and Dad would be slamming things against metal surfaces. Dad looked nothing like the red-haired man from downstairs. While the red-haired man had seemed to glide around the hotel lobby, serpentine as his shoes, Dad only moved if he had to. The red-haired man had gaunt cheeks and laughter lines. Dad had paunchy pink cheeks and deep frown lines.
I blinked away the image of Dad from my mind and sunk slightly deeper into the bathwater. I was just about to light one of Lily’s cigarettes – kept in a jewelled box of razors and bath salts next to the bath – when a creak sounded in the corridor outside the bedroom. The bathroom was blurry with steam, and I only just managed to scramble out of the bath water to open the window above the toilet before the creak made its way into Lily’s bedroom. The steam dissipated. I nearly slipped on the white tiles, tugged my tracksuit bottoms over wet legs, held my breath and then slowly descended to a crouch in front of the bathroom keyhole. I squinted and peered through it.
An extremely tall man was sitting on the end of Lily’s bed, bang in front of the keyhole with his head in his hands. I’d noticed him earlier drinking from a bottle of vodka in the corner of the lobby downstairs, and had thought that he looked like something from a fairy tale about giants or ogres. He was in his mid-thirties and wearing a stripy shirt, a tattered black jumper and a pair of blue tailored trousers with holes like full stops and commas on his thighs. His black hair was only slightly longer than the stubble on his face, and he had a pair of stupid gold-rimmed sunglasses resting on his head. His trousers might have been expensive, but they were frayed at the hem as if he were dressed half in designer castoffs and half in items he bought on eBay when he was drunk. He sat still on Lily’s bed, his shoulders slumped.
After a moment, the Giant looked around Lily’s room and picked up a photograph from the bedside table. It was the one of Lily sitting cross-legged under a tree and laughing. The Giant fumbled trying to get the picture out of the frame with his big hands. He nicked his thumb and put the tip of it in his mouth like a child. I was glad the man was stealing the picture of Lily laughing in a big white T-shirt, not the one next to it, where she was naked. He eased the photograph out from under the glass and, just as he slipped it into his pocket, there was another noise from the hallway outside Lily’s bedroom. For a moment the Giant seemed to consider making a jump for the bathroom. His green eyes flicked towards me and he put his hands on his knees as if about to haul his drunken body to a standing position. I held my breath and waited to be discovered inexcusably topless and sopping wet in a dead woman’s bathroom, but the Giant’s body was slow with alcohol and, before he got off the bed, Lily’s bedroom door opened.
“What the fuck?” slurred the Bugs Bunny voice of the red-haired man. I couldn’t see him through the keyhole, but could hear his heavy breathing.
“I’m sorry,” said the Giant, who got off the bed and stepped towards the red-haired man, out of the keyhole’s vision. There was a shuffle, and the muffled sound of skin hitting skin. The red-haired man swore, and the Giant made a noise that could have been a groan or the exertion of a punch. I couldn’t see exactly what was going on, but the Giant stumbled backwards and nearly fell. Skin hit skin again, and then it was the red-haired man who collapsed onto Lily’s bed. Everything paused, except the moth at the bathroom ceiling. The red-haired man didn’t move from his horizontal position, but his blood-shot eyes were open, staring dumbly up at the Giant.
“Get out of here,” slurred the red-haired man. He turned his cheek to the side on Lily’s pillow.
“I’m so sorry,” said the Giant.
“Then just get the fuck out of my apartment. There’s nothing here any more. You can all just fuck off.”
“I’m so sorry,” repeated the Giant. “I’m so sorry.”

Copyright © 2011 by Anna Stothard


Excerpted from The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard Copyright © 2013 by Anna Stothard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anna Stothard studied English at Oxford and then moved to Los Angeles, where she was awarded a screenwriting scholarship with the masters program at the American Film Institute. She is currently living in Chalk Farm, London, and writing her next novel.

Anna Stothard studied English at Oxford and then moved to Los Angeles, where she was awarded a screenwriting scholarship with the masters program at the American Film Institute. She is the author of The Pink Hotel. She is currently living in Chalk Farm, London, and writing her next novel.

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Pink Hotel 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
I read this book due to the BN recco in it's weekly review. There were not reader reviews yet and I normally wait to read those. My mistake that I won't make again. For me, the book had very little plot, i.e., not much happened but a series of conversations between characters over a few weeks time (with a few light flashbacks). And the characters were not very deep or interesting or worthy in my view. I kept waiting to see if the story went to an interesting place, but it never did. Overall, the book just left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't like to be so negative as I'm sure some people will enjoy it. But I will wait to see what a broad spectrum think of these books in future. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really good coming of age novel. It reminded me of the White Oleander. Would love to see this as a movie.