Synopsis via Amazon:
Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who liked playing with ghosts and matches. She loved fizzy drinks, swear words, fish fingers and Catholic churches, but most of all she loved living in Brighton in Queenie Malone’s magnificent Paradise Hotel with its endearing and loving family of misfits – staff and guests alike. But Tilly’s childhood was shattered when her mother sent her away from the only home she’d ever loved to boarding school with little explanation and no warning.
Now, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother’s unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only friend is her dog, Eli. But when her mother dies, Tilda goes back to Brighton and with the help of her beloved Queenie sets about unravelling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all …
My reading experience:
Thank you to the author, Netgalley and the publishers for my free ARC.
“I pick up the framed photograph … and stare at the child I used to be next to the woman who so spectacularly failed to be the mother I wanted. What were her secrets and where was the key.”
The smells of the seaside pier, the candy floss, sticks of rock, hot fresh doughnuts, salty chips and shellfish delicacies are all hidden inbetween the pages of this book. Hogan describes the pier and ballroom metropolis as a childhood paradise.
Meet Tilda, returning to her childhood paradise all grown up and grieving for her mother who has passed away. Of course there used to be a father, but one day he was just … gone. Her only memory of a man who had “… that golden syrup, ‘sun has got his hat on’ happiness.”
This seafront is Brighton. Her beloved Queenie, along with her dog Eli and her father are dead. Tilda (Tilly) is clearly struggling. She walks to the shops and Eli is with her, she gets dressed to go out and Queenie is telling her how she looks. Her coping mechanism is a daily quota of matches she can strike. Things are not quite right. It is in this moment that Tilda unravels the secret of who her mother really was.
Several chapters are uniquely enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the chapter where Tilda has “torture by afternoon tea” with Ms Danes – witty, dry humour, perfect. The stories are endearing and warming. I also enjoyed the way our author uses Tilly’s voice to describe “Truth” as being a bit like cats cradle in Chapter 11 – “it was easy enough at the start, but lose your grip for a second and soon there would be knots and tangles all over the place.”
Hogan has walked into my home through the back door put the kettle on and opened a box of cakes before I even knew she was there. Her writing style is full of colourful description evoking visual and olfactory senses. The chapters are divided between Tilly and her grown up self, Tilda. Each has her own voice and in this way the story unravels between the voice of a young girl and an adult simultaneously. This mechanism is also a device for separating memories from revelations.
I thoroughly recommend this latest creation from Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things and The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes.
Themes: abandonment, deceit, grief, anxiety, secrets, truth