I have great affection for Emylia Hall and I’ll tell you for why. Six years ago when I was a novice reviewer Ms. Hall’s The Book of Summers was the second book I ever reviewed, for Real Readers. And it made an impact on me because on the front cover at the bottom it said ‘Manuscript proof copy not for sale’. For some reason this endowed me with, what I now know is ridiculous, an exaggerated sense of importance. It gave me some credibility, personally, as a reviewer because I felt that someone had trusted me with this proof copy. I still have that book. So when I received a copy of The Thousand Lights Hotel from Headline Books I was delighted to revisit Ms. Hall’s work and experience how she has developed as a writer and hopefully how I may have developed as a reviewer!
This book was made for summer, the beach, vacational reading, preferably in Italy as that’s where it’s set. It’s the perfect holiday read. Paradoxically, it is the complex simplicity that elevates Emylia Hall’s stories to just beyond mere chick lit. The mood and style created in The Book of Summers shows in this current book with a greater maturity of writing. Similar themes are explored, the parent/child relationships, the love of foreign lands and I suppose ultimately the finding of selves whether you are a parent or a child.
This book is rich and vibrant; you can almost smell the food described, the sea, that indefinable something that you only find in Italy that draws many people back again and again so ably described here with the guests at the hotel; some are visiting for the first time and you just know they will return and others who returning, some year after year.
The body of the plot is an emotional one, not wanting to give too much away here but there are themes here that will resonate with many readers and may even provoke a tear or two. The principal characters have some depth and the reader can engage with them in their dilemmas. The narrative flows easily and economically. We are not overburdened with details that are irrelevant. Again there is the paradox of the beautiful scenery and a landscape played against the turmoil of emotion that Kits’s visit to Elba ignites.
As with this genre of stories the ends are all but tied up, a little is left our imagination and if it all seems a little sentimental and saccharin towards the end it really can’t go anywhere else.
Take it on holiday with you. It’s escapism. It works.