Book Review: 'Heartbreak Hotel'
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Deborah Moggach. Overlook, 304 pp. $26.95
Deborah Moggach is perhaps best known for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," which was made into a film starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith. Though I've never read that book (or seen the film), I understand from "Heartbreak Hotel" what makes Moggach so endearing as a writer.
Russell "Buffy" Buffery is a retired actor, who has been married -- and divorced -- three times. Through two of these women, and another two he wasn't married to, he has five children and a step-daughter. Now, he's living in a theatrical boarding house owned by a Bridie, a woman with a "gravelly smoker's cough." When Bridie dies, she leaves Buffy with her bed and breakfast nestled in rural Wales. He moves in immediately and decides to try to make running the place work.
Unfortunately, business isn't great. In an effort to increase the patronage, Buffy decides to hold week-long seminars to teach the recently divorced and widowed the basic household skills their partners previously managed. With the help of area "experts," he offers courses including basic car maintenance, gardening for beginners, and basic cookery, among others. Through these courses, he is able to generate business, help people meet others in similar circumstances, and fix up his place at no cost (all of the seminars are presented at the bed and breakfast, using his own car, garden and kitchen as models).
What's sweet about this book is the relationships that develop. Moggach's writing is very character-driven. The menagerie of lost souls that parade into Buffy's bed and breakfast are able to find healing in their experience, a bonus to the life skill they signed up to learn.