Tuesday, September 7, 2010

114 - Lady Matador's Hotel; Cristina Garcia















Lady Matador's Hotel is written by Cristina Garcia, a new to me author. The novel is written in one of my favorite styles -- omniscient, third person narration. In this story the lives of six individuals become interwoven at a luxury hotel in an unnamed  in Central America capital city. The entire story takes place at the Hotel Milaflor over a period of seven days.

Central to the story is the Lady Matador, Suki Palacios who is half-Mexican and half-Japanese. She has arrived at the Hotel Miliflor from Los Angeles for the First Battle of the Lady Matadors in the Americas. Men view her as an interloper, a "scandalous woman playing at being a man".  For Suki, rituals are important to her; her father instilled this belief at an early age. Prior to a fight she slips a fifty dollar bill into the offering box at the cathedral and light fourteen candles -- one for every year that she and her mother were alive. Fourteen candles for her dead mother, pink stockings first, and one sliced pear. For extra luck, she has silent sex with a stranger two days before a fight. Then right before stepping into the ring she recites three words in Spanish and Japanese: arrogance, honor and death.

Suki also likes to tempt fate and test superstitions when she isn't fighting. She wears yellow, the color of accidents and bad omens, knowing that by doing this she will catch the attention of the journalists who can't wait to interview her. She is a woman who beats to her own drummer and is not interested in traditions or conforming to a certain image.

Another strong female character is Gertrudis Stuber, a German lawyer who specialized in adoptions, calling it her "export" business. Greedy, egotistical and just plain evil, a woman who refers to one of the birth mothers as her "best breeder mother", Gertrudis makes $30,000 for each adoption. The previous year, she processed (17) adoptions. In addition, she receives kickbacks from the hotel as prospective parents are required to stay at the expensive Hotel Milaflor.

The other (4) individuals consist of Won Kim, a Korean businessman, who is staying in the honeymoon suite with his pregnant mistress. All the while he is thinking about ending his life. Then there is the much hated, and arrogant Colonel Martin Abel who committed horrible acts during the country's civil war. The colonel has a romantic interest in the Lady Matador.  Aura Estrada an ex-guerrilla, who is working a the hotel as a waitress, but is bent on revenge. The last two individuals are a Cuban poet and his American wife who are guests at the hotel, while waiting to adopt a baby. Each of these six individuals are dealing with ghosts of their past, and all the while the country is in political turmoil, a hurricane is looming out at sea, and things are heating up as lives are converging for these six hotel guests.

The third person narrator worked well, and I really enjoyed this story.The novel is extremely short, just over 200 pages, however, it leaves the reader with a lot to think about. Each of the characters were extremely well developed; they were also, for the most part, unlikeable. Despite their flawed character traits, I thought each individual was sympathetic in their own way, and for this reason, the author's talent was evident through and through. I'll be looking for more books by this author. RECOMMENDED
 4/5 stars (review copy)

11 comments:

  1. this sounds like a very interesting book-thanks for sharing your thoughts

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  2. I just love a book set in a hotel. I think it goes back to my university years when I trained in hotel and catering. I always imagined myself running a hotel. This book sounds brilliant and definitely one I want to read.

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  3. I love books that present a group of characters and then show how they are related. This one sounds like a winner. I love the cover too.

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  4. This sounds very interesting, I'll add it to my TBR list! Thanks for the review!

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  5. I have been waiting to hear about this one, and I will admit that it sounds fascinatingly unusual. I also like that although the characters are unlikable, you still want to read about them and get invested in their lives. Great review! This one goes to the top of the list!

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  6. It seems there is so much going on in such a short book! I've heard a bit about this book before your review and already had it on my wishlist. I'm looking forward to reading it at some point.

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  7. Only 200 pages? How can such a complicated-sounding book with a large, diverse cast be so short?

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  8. The cover is certainly striking and I love novels with interweaving stories of the different characters. Suki's story jumps out at me though - is there such a thing as a lady matador?

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  9. This must be one good book to be able to say so much for its size. Thanks for the review!

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  10. I read her Dreaming in Cuban many years ago but don't remember much about it except that I liked it enough to consider reading it in Spanish afterward (a short lived idea). I'll have to get this one at some point!

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  11. I've been hearing about this one and have already added it to my list. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I look forward to reading it.

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