In Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel entitled These Foolish Things, a youthful man runs a rickety hotel filled with golden-agers in Italy. Heartbreak Hotel echos these sentiments, only the location changes to a fictional spot called Knockton in Wales, and the characters reverse roles— the old run the place while the young find themselves visitors.
An elderly, retired actor named Buffy (you might recognize him from Moggach’s novel, The Ex-Wives published in 1994) inherits a dilapidated bed and breakfast from a dear friend after her death. Tired of London with its stuffy streets and rude people, Buffy decides to make the B&B his home. Though the B&B brings about a wave of nostalgia for Buffy, no one else seems to want to stay in the shoddy establishment. Realizing he needs to find a way to entice people to stay at the B&B, Buffy starts an educational endeavor he calls “Courses for Divorces”. Designed to help recently divorced or separated individuals relearn to do what they relied on their partners for, Buffy attracts and eclectic lot that would not ordinarily mix. This group of oddballs finds common ground with their less than satisfactory relationship statuses despite the leaky roof and single bathroom.
Though a bit predictable as far as plot twists goes, this novel is full of humor and honesty. The characters fit together well, despite their differences. Readers that have also read These Foolish Things might at first be bored with the similarities in structure and content, but Heartbreak Hotel is a heartwarming tale worth the read. Each character brings a sense of individuality to the novel, and Moggach isn’t afraid to explore all types of relationships, from the traditional to the liberal and eclectic, which is quite refreshing for American culture. Once the reader is able to work out Buffy’s own complicated relationship woes, which includes 3 marriages, 4 children by 4 different women, and a stepchild, he or she finds Buffy’s experiences a great compliment to those of his tenants.
I recommend this one to anyone looking for a heartwarming, easy read laced with great humor and unlikely friendships.
For more information on Deborah Moggach and her work, make sure to visit her website.
Publisher: Overlook Books (March 3, 2015) ISBN-13: 978-1468310573