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.
Many years later, 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 …
Meet 7yr old Tilly. A wonderfully curious child besotted with her Dad. She loves nothing more than spending time with him, playing games and learning about all the wonderful things he has to tell her, (some much to her mother’s dislike) . Suddenly Tilly’s dad has to go away, and she misses him terribly.
Meet Grace, Tilly’s mother, a women already suffering with mental heath issues she feels more and more left out by the closeness of her daughter’s and husband’s bond. When her husband leaves she doesn’t quiet know how to cope. Struggling to connect with her child she sinks more and more into depression turning to drink and pills to alleviate the pain.
Grace turns to an old friend, Queenie, who runs a hotel in Brighton, here she finds an offer of work and safety and moves Tilly and herself in.
The novel is split between the story of Tilly as a child and present day Tilly now called Tilda as a 46 year old adult arriving at her mother’s flat to clear out her belongings after Grace’s death. She finds her mother’s old diaries where Tilda and the reader discover together the answers to so many questions Tilda has held onto in regards to her childhood. In particular why she was sent away so suddenly to boarding school.
I loved the dual narrative. The socially awkward Tilda. A loner who turns to ‘her dog’ for company, and the wonderfully comical young Tilly. The parts of the book where she misinterprets some things that people tell her had me laughing out loud.
‘Tilly and Karen were just in the middle of a game of hairdressers, when her mother came into the garden to fetch Tilly and take her home. Her mother looked tired and her eyes were red, but Tilly was reluctant to leave their game just when she was hearing about Karen’s ‘lazy, good-for-nothing husband making a pass at the bottle-blonde trollop of a barmaid down the pub while her hair was being given a pretend shampoo and set. She had no idea why Karen’s pretend husband was playing football with a barmaid, and why it made her a trollop.’
I loved the part in the book where they are living at Queenie’s hotel with all of the wonderful characters. Like the beautiful little stories we are told in The Keeper of Lost things that help explain the objects that are found and kept, the story of Queenie’s hotel is just as enjoyable and I could quiet easily read another book just on this.
I found it a wonderful read not only because it shows us how our experiences as children can change the adults we become, but also from a parents perspective, of how our decisions can make such profound differences to our growing children’s lives. How a parent can think they are doing something for the best but proves to be the wrong move. How whatever they do and however wrong they may get it it is done for love.
A moving read that I would highly recommend.
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.