In The Pink Hotel, from Liska Jacobs, newlyweds Kit and Keith Collins arrive for their honeymoon at a prestigious Beverly Hills resort. Keith is the general manager for a mediocre “quaint roadside hotel” in Boonville, a small Northern California town, and Kit is a waitress at the hotel’s restaurant. As a couple, they’ve been together for 5 years, and Kit, fully absorbed into her husband’s career and ambitions is about to embark on a sommelier course. It’s through the hotel restaurant that Keith met the Beaumonts. Mr Beaumont ascertains that Keith intends to take his honeymoon in Napa, and degrading that suggestion, instead proposes they come to the hotel he manages in Beverley Hills. And so the Kit and Keith are at the Pink Hotel; Kit, awed by the ostentatiousness and outrageous prices, thinks this is their honeymoon, and the start of their new life together, but Keith has another agenda; he’s hoping for a job under Beaumont’s tutelage.
It doesn’t take long to see that Kit and Keith are out of their depth, but they don’t seem to realise it. Mr Beaumont has an arrangement with an employee, Coco, and Mrs. Beaumont seems to think she will have a similar arrangement with Keith. As Kit and Keith sink into the opulent lifestyle and let their decadent, new friends pick up the tab, the process of corruption takes place. The idea of a honeymoon recedes farther into the background with morality somewhere in the rear view mirror. Meanwhile, fires are breaking out all over the region and smoke fills the air. The guests sport fancy masks “fashionable with beading or sequins” and the staff have flimsy blue paper masks but some of the guests object to this. Apparently they spoil the ambience. As the fires rage, social unrest builds outside of the hotel grounds.
The novel is at its strongest depicting the almost-desperate desire to belong–to hang onto the ephemeral, temperamental whimsies of the rich. Kit’s caution over the menu prices and Keith’s insistence that the prices don’t matter (while he swallows hard) feel all too real. It’s a once in a lifetime getaway that they will be paying for for years. The desire of the have-nots to mingle with the Mega-Haves is painful. However, the social unrest outside of the hotel and the egregious petty, callous behaviour of the rich, placed the novel into an allegory zone–think Bunuel but updated to modern Beverly Hills. So we have the rich, served by the poor in a lavish enclave. Wildfires rage outside these walls, so the poor and disenfranchised suffer first, but ultimately Climate Change impacts everyone. These parts didn’t work so well for me, and seemed overdone. Even the name Boonville seems trite. I’m not overly fond of allegory (The Pilgrim’s Progress is an exception), and the novel is painfully slow at some points.