Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book 14: M is for Marigold

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A NovelThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A Novel by Deborah Moggach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One advantage of a long weekend suffering from a cold and mostly spent sitting limply on the sofa is that I have had plenty of time to read!  Tevye and I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the cinema last month. We loved it and inspired by the film I added the book to my Kindle. The film was warm, colourful and life-affirming. The premise is that a group of English pensioners travel to India to spent their later years in a ramshackle retirement home known as the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The cast is magnificent, a roll call of some of the best of the older generation of British actors - Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith as a racist old Cockney sent to India for hip replacement surgery. Some adjust to their new surroundings better than others; one is able to rediscover his past; others find friendship and even romance. A sub-plot involves the young Indian hotel owner-manager and his relationships with his family and girlfriend. India itself forms a vibrant and colourful backdrop to the story.

The book - previously published as These Foolish Things - is very different. This is one of those films that is most definitely not faithful to the original. The book is grittier and more graphic. It is as much about the middle-aged children of the hotel residents and their relationships with their parents, wives, husbands and lovers as it is about the elderly characters themselves. The film writes the children out more or less completely, leaving the spotlight solely on the residents of the Marigold Hotel and the Indian characters. In the book the idea of the retirement home in India comes from the son-in-law of an old man who has been thrown out of several British homes for sexually harassing the staff; in the film it is the enterprising young Indian Sonny who thinks of marketing his hotel to an elderly clientele. In the book Sonny is 30 years older than he is in the film, and that is just for starters - relationships between the characters are quite different, plots have been transferred to different characters or just plain changed, one character who dies in the book survives in the film, and so it goes on. Beyond the basic premise and the names of the characters, the book and the film are really completely different animals. On the whole I enjoyed the book and found it a quick and easy read, though it was disconcerting in that it felt like entering a parallel universe, one where the world of the Marigold Hotel and its inmates was darker and more complex than the lighter, fluffier - and to me more enjoyable - world of the film. I wonder whether if I had read the book first I would have found the film disappointingly light and fluffy?

For more reviews visit 52 Books in 52 Weeks

1 comment:

Carol said...

Hi Bookworm, I followed the link from 52 Books in 52 years. We haven't gotten this movie yet, and I wanted to read your review. I LOVE all all the actors (we are big British period-piece fans). It seems that every thing we watch has this movie advertised. I think the American release is May 17 or 20. I think I might skip the book and just watch the movie.

Thanks!