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review 2017-11-26 10:27
Modern charades....is it a book? Is it a film?
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Deborah Moggach

I generally get a sense of foreboding when I read on a book's cover, "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE", even more so when I have seen said movie. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a good example, in that it is a glorious 'feel good' film, with a host of wonderful actors, setting the bar high for the preceding novel, which I notice was previously entitled, "These Foolish Things". But, notwithstanding this book has apparently inspired a successful cinema formulation, would it be any good?


The answer is 'yes', Deborah Moggach's original novel is really well conceived and the interplay between the cast of characters is comical, poignant and even touching at times. However, the downside to seeing the movie first is a sense of disappointment that the book has not been faithfully reproduced on the screen. Some parts that have been 'bigged up' for the cinema-going public proved to be relatively modest on reading the book. Unsurprising perhaps, when the talents of Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith et al are at hand, but the young charismatic Indian entrepreneur (played by Dev Patel) shown on the book's cover with his beautiful girlfriend, doesn't actually exist in the intervening pages. Instead, Sonny is middle-aged, rather dull and a 'bit part', compared to his central role in the screen version.


In contrast to the Hollywood meets Bollywood makeover, the book is earthier and the characters' back-stories more authentic, in turn making the plot lines more plausible. At a time when the UK's National Health Service is creaking under the pressures of an ageing population and traditional family loyalties are equally stressed, the advantages of shipping out to a new retired life in a strange land is a tantalising prospect   The comparing and contrasting of cultures within the book was also arguably more nuanced and the author holds up an interesting mirror on what it is to grow old in modern societies. East and West both have their 'hidden' populations of the 'uncared for'. But, perhaps the message of the book is that for those with an adventurous or courageous spirit and a willingness to share and create new social circles, life retains a wealth of possibilities.


The title is an interesting aside, but for me the book is much more explicitly about the characters and the dilapidated hotel merely a backdrop, albeit a useful metaphor, for which the original title may have better preserved the distinction. Still, despite the apparent temptation to ride the coat-tails of a successful movie, this book is, of itself, worth a read and perhaps for people of a certain age provides important fuel for thought.

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review 2016-10-30 15:34
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Deborah Moggach
Better than the movie!
At times I felt it was so different too. I love how it was interpreted, but I do love the flow
of the story more when reading it.
I actually had to forget what I had seen. The characters they chose for the film seemed
quite different than the book. While some I could connect the dots, others it was hard, so I just let it go and read. I'm glad I did too. I found the book so much more rich in Indian culture. It made me want to go and stay at the Marigold Hotel myself, or even the Hotel Balmoral. I just want to be there.
The story, or rather one specific character, is more racist than I remember in the movie.
'Only a different color skin could get his mojo working. Women like these knew how to 
satisfy a man, it was their culture'. Say what?! My mouth hung open for that one. But I'm
glad it didn't put me off or stop me from reading. Those shocking moments, or character 
flaws, kind of make the story more real. It's sad, but there is some really racist people out
All in all, if you haven't seen the films or read the book, I suggest starting with the story.
So good. So very good.
Source: www.fredasvoice.com/2016/10/the-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-by.html
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review 2016-03-21 18:14
Marigold by Troy James Weaver
Marigold - Troy James Weaver

“Marigold is a hundred haikus of loneliness, pages torn from Baudelaire’s dream journal, the suicide note as high art." Kevin Maloney´s blurb for Marigold was what intrigued me at first about it, minus the "suicide note as high art", plus the beautiful cover did it for me. Torn with broken lines, dark but with the bright flowers in between, it sums up the book pretty well.

Or as the book description says, "A thirty-something floral salesman searches for reasons to keep living." which btw sorta contradicts the text itself, "Eight hours asleep every night for twenty-nine years." and "I´m almost thirty (...)", but I assume the author, and the publisher, knows something which I don´t. Either that, or they fucked up so bad they invented a new religion.*

By now I´ve read Marigold twice, more two and a half times, and for a whole week now I was trying to type up something that vaguely resembles a review... and I couldnt do it. 63 attempts, roughly, but like I was stuck in my own version of If On A Winter´s Night A Traveler with many a false starts and faulty endings. I had to step back and walk away for a while. I am not sure why or what took me so long. To think about my own life, maybe?, to think about what I want to achieve, where I want to be in a year, in five, in ten. I don´t know. I only know on a level Marigold, at the best of times, cracked me open from the inside.

What the book really good at is, is walking down the memory lane, or as Michael Kazepis, head honcho of King Shot Press, writes in the foreword, Marigold is "a novel forged from old pain."

I couldn´t help myself but thinking back at the time when I fucked up my leg in a skiing accident. Or when I was 13 and diagnosed with a tumor in my stomach. Of the months and months in hospital and therapy and recovery. Of those two large operation scars on my body which by now I don´t even see when having a shower or dressing myself as they are so much a part of me I can´t think of myself without them anymore. Of many a hopes abandoned, of broken dreams and sleepless nights, of heartbreak and relationship failures. Of those many hours looking out the window on rainy nights, listening to the quiet tap-tap-tap on the window sill. Which were at those times the highlights of my day. Living those melancholic moments when the bleaker and darker moments didn´t overwhelm or take over completely.

Which is oddly personal for me, since I´m not really one to wear my heart inside out. I am not one either for always walking on sunshine, and this is what Marigold did to me. Easy to relate to, even heavy on the heart.

"The meaning of life is that it stops,” which opens Marigold and I disagree with on a fundamental basis, but it´s Kafka, so what do I know? With that the text itself makes already clear it ain´t one for being an escapist read but one to ponder over. The plot itself, meager as it is, in Marigold is almost irrelevant. A salesman working in a flower shop. Which is barely even acknowledged, even bits and pieces about the flower Marigold are thrown in, including my favorite quote of it.


Weaver isn´t one for giving in into existentialist or philosophical longish musings about life in the 21th century but delivers his narrative in short, very short, emotional outbursts. Those are not paragraphs per se, but a times a single sentence, a single word is enough to give an accurate picture of the mental state the narrator is in.


With this vibrant haiku style, or more like guerilla style, our first person and nameless narrator deals with loneliness and suicidal tendencies. Of when taking out the trash becomes the ultimate meaning of how to deal with life in small and large. Weaver, however, doesn´t explain what shaped the narrators personality, his life, his identity or where his depression is coming from. The depression just sits there, waiting for the moments to shape the narrator as he is right here and now.

His rather futile attempts to dial up a suicide hotline are not without humor, almost comical in fact, which counteracts the bleak overall atmosphere of Marigold. It is not that he doesn´t want help but that he is caught in an endless struggle of depression which leads to miscommunication, and finding the right words to say what needs to be said.

The characters themselves are not so much cliches but an deliberate attempt by Weaver to let them be archetypes, less so characters as such. The hair-twirling kid, the woman who will die of cancer, or the wife. Which makes more sense towards the end when in Marigold, with a firm swift of the narrative voice, similar to Edouard Leve´s Suicide - which is referenced several times in Marigold -, the I becomes the You becomes the Us.

Also any book that takes note of David Foster Wallace is a good one by default. 

About halfway through the book the hair-twirling kid kills himself, alas, a dream scene, this "nightmare inducing bastard." Dream scenes in books are essentially buttsex scenes for the popcorn eaters at the movies.** Still, the narrator sees his co-worker for the first time, or anyone actually, as "a human being.” Instead of an annoyance who interrupts his own misery.

And so life ends, except when it doesn´t. “(...) and suddenly I’m crying, too, and we are in this immense moment of existential togetherness, astray in the wilderness of being, but hand in hand.”  

In context an almost absurd moment where light takes over the darkness, where any attempts of suicide are seemingly far away and where life is shit but not so bad. Where sometimes people care.

We held hands and cried/until the morning light.
And we held hands and cried/until the morning light.
And we held hands and cried/until the morning light.
And we held hands and cried/until the morning light.***

* slightly altered quote courtesy of Cody Goodfellow, Strategies Against Nature
** I will love David James Keaton forever for that one
*** courtesy of Clara Luzia, Morning Light

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review 2015-10-14 07:24
Once Upon A Marigold
Once Upon a Marigold - Jean Ferris

I read this such a long time ago that I've almost forgotten it, but my recent thing with coming-of-age stories started to bring back memories, and all of them pleasant ones. One of them being in fifth grade when I was stuck in my mother's native Taiwan for two months with quite literally no book to read but this one, and I poured over this book repeatedly until it was falling to pieces in my hands. It held up to those rereadings remarkably well.

So what is this story? It's a romance, a fairy tale, and a coming-of-age story all jumbled into one. I know the last descriptor might seem off-putting, but this is no pretentious regurgitation of the Hero's Journey all over again. In fact, Christian's destiny actually lies more with romance than in adventure...which in my experience is much more of a "feminine" route, but it worked amazingly well here, for a number of reasons.

For one, the tone of this book is awesome. It's lighthearted and funny and still manages to get to the core of what it means to grow up. I loved Christian's nerdiness, his talent with inventing and his fascination with the world. I loved his relationship with Ed, his awkward but well-meaning foster father (and no, it's not nearly as angsty as that kind of relationship usually is--quite the contrary actually). So while I'd usually start screaming my head off at quotes like this:

All his life he'd had the feeling that he was headed toward something--something that felt big--but he didn't know what it was.

...It totally works here. I don't know why. I guess it just fits so well with the musing, thoughtfully-scratching-your-chin rambling storytelling style, one that captures the fairy-tale feeling quite well and one that my 10-year-old self completely fell in love with.

But Christian's story is not the only one, although it's the primary one. Marigold's story, unlike Chris, is not one of venturing out into the world but trying to find oneself at home, which she does when she forms her first friendship with Chris. This too is, I think, a coming-of-age story, and one that comes about through romance. Where Chris was raised in the nurturing environment of his happy-go-lucky foster father, Marigold's childhood is marked with much more emotional strife, having been trapped by social expectations she couldn't live up to and being overshadowed by her sisters, and being valued more as a political pawn than as a person. Her relationship with Chris is the first true validation of her identity that she's received in all her life, and it goes a long way to healing the abuses of her mother and her sense of not being able to fit in at court, as well as supporting the independent spirit we as the audience always knew was there. And how could we not? The time when she received the first pigeon message from Chris--ah, that scene has me dyyyying every time I revisit it.

One theme that caught my attention as a child and has stayed with me to this day was the importance of friendship. Marigold and Chris's relationship starts as a platonic (and anonymous) one between friends, and blossoms into a romance when they realize how much they've come to rely on each other's mutual support. Chris's relationship with Ed (his foster father) is ostensibly that between a father and a son, but often spills over into a friendship between equal comrades--in part because Ed doesn't know how to be a dad, in part because Chris doesn't know how to be a son, and in part because both of them are still trying to figure out who they are. The one thing they do know, though, is that they'll always have each other's backs no matter what. To me, that symbolized exactly what family and friendship is supposed to be, compared to the more conventional--but more unhappy--relationships like the ones in Marigold's family.

Lastly, I was fascinated by the humanizing flaws of the older characters. There's Ed of course, but I enjoyed how King's Swithbert tendency towards optimism and hoping for the best also led him to be indecisive, leaving his daughters to basically fend for themselves under their tyrannical mother, Queen Olympia. Queen Olympia herself plays the role of the villain of the story, and while a case for stereotyping "evil mothers" could be made, I don't think that really holds true--she's so bursting with personality, with all her glamour and extravagance and calculating ability to maintain social power over the court that it makes for one of the most vivid villains I've ever read, if not the most morally grey. At least, I don't think Ferris paints Olympia as evil so much as a powerful woman who happens to hold the upper hand in all her relationships, including with those of her family. It's an ambiguous portrayal, but it absolutely sucked me in as a child and still does every time I reread it.

The setting, now that I think of it, is pretty small in scope--itfeels large because of the way the world is revealed to us, as two neighboring kingdoms separated by a river--but most of the plot takes place in Ed's crystal cave, then in the castle of Beaurivage in the second half. Honestly, looking back on it, I'm so impressed with Ferris's ability to meld the sense of setting with the story to the point that it really does feel like a fairy tale, in that you always have such a vivid but subtle background to the plot at all times. The castle terrace, the crystal cave, the river, the noisy kitchen. It sounds so small and domestic and self-contained but the characters supply plenty of drama to make it really come alive.

I've come to appreciate this kind of story because it's so difficult to find, with all the "dark" and "gritty" novels flooding the YA market these days. The only equals in manipulation of tone and atmosphere with this kind of style I've managed to discover are Where the Mountain Meets the Moonand The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, although neither delve into romance quite as much, particularly the first one.

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review 2015-07-05 15:52
Review: The Black Swan Inheritance
The Black Swan Inheritance - Marigold Deidre Dicer,Leiah Cooper

THE BLACK SWAN INHERITANCE is the first book in Marigold Deidre Dicer’s BLACK SWAN series. The story is set in Australia and follows the story of Anita as she settles into life at university, trying to be a different girl than the one she was in high school. Anita is determined to reach her goal of becoming a doctor like her father. Life, however, decides that her path won’t be quite as easy as she’d like.

When I read the blurb to this book I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy of it. The idea of a “Black Swan” was a really intriguing one, and I was curious to see what Dicer had planned. I also really liked the fact that THE BLACK SWAN INHERITANCE was set in Australia, as most urban fantasies and new adult novels tend to be set somewhere in the US. The book seemed like it had a lot of potential and I couldn’t wait to dive in.

THE BLACK SWAN INHERITANCE is narrated in first person by the main character, Anita. Unfortunately I found Anita to be quite a difficult character to relate to. She seemed to jump about quite a lot in terms of her opinions, and often didn’t seem to think about the possible consequences of her actions – she tended to jump straight into a situation. Anita also seemed to be very hard on herself, especially about the way she acted during high school. I also found the narrative itself to be quite confusing as although Anita was supposed to have no idea what was going on with the supernatural and what was happening to her, quite often she seemed to know just how to handle a situation seemingly without any guidance.

Although Anita is the main narrator of the story, Dicer also provides the occasional section where the narrator switches to the third person which allows the reader to have a broader idea of the overall situation in the novel. Despite this, having finished the book I’m not really sure what happened in the story plot-wise apart from the introduction of Anita and the “big bad”. Dicer created an intriguing “big bad” and although I’m not sure of its motivations, it was brilliantly written and very manipulative. I think it might be my favourite character in the book.

In THE BLACK SWAN INHERITANCE Dicer brings a new story to the urban fantasy table. The concept of the “Black Swan” is an interesting and complex one. Dicer also brings vampires and werewolves back with a more traditional feel, and the Australian settings adds another element of newness to the story. Although this story wasn’t really for me, if you are looking for something new within either the urban fantasy or new adult genres then you may enjoy this.

I got a copy of this book off Smashwords/the author in exchange for an honest review.
Originally posted on The Flutterby Room.

Source: theflutterbyroom.com/2015/04/02/review-the-black-swan-inheritance-by-marigold-deidre-dicer
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