The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, by Deborah Moggach, is a delightful
book, perfect for summer reading.  At the start of the novel, we are
introduced to Norman Purse, a 70-something rogue who has been thrown out
of his retirement home for "inappropriate sexual behavior."  This is
not the first incident of its kind.  Once again, Norman comes to live
with his daughter, Pauline, and son-in-law, Dr. Ravi Kapoor.

Norman
is quite a character.  He tells lewd jokes, talks about bodily functions, smokes in
Ravi's home office, downloads pornographic sites to his computer, and lacks all sense of privacy.  Ravi, who comes home exhausted as an emergency
room physician, feels he has no place to rest.  Ravi is pushed to a breaking
point when a patient, the elderly Muriel Donnelly, is left untreated in
the emergency room for 2 days after being robbed.  The media learn of
this and make Ravi's hospital and the NHS a lead story.  The truth,
however, is that Muriel would not allow "a darkie" to touch her.

After
Norman carelessly leaves his soiled handkerchiefs boiling in Ravi's
favorite curry pot, nearly burning down the house, Ravi is determined to
take action.  In a providential meeting with his cousin, Sonny, a plan
is hatched.  Sonny proposes they purchase a rundown hotel in Bangalore
(The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) that dates back to 1865.

Moggach
gives loving detail to the hotel, allowing it to become yet another
character in the novel. The Marigold was originally a large bungalow
built by boxwallah Henry Fowler.  After India's independence and the
departure of the British, it was turned into a guest house.  In the
1960s, an annex, some air conditioning, and "temperamental plumbing"
were added.  As Bangalore became a high-tech oasis, neighboring
bungalows were demolished and new hotels and office buildings sprang
up.  The Marigold began to languish from neglect and financial
difficulties.  Its owner, Minoo, kept it for sentimental reasons.

Once
Sonny is able to convince Minoo to sell The Marigold and hire him as
its manager, he and Ravi set out to get residents.  Norman is convinced into coming
by the allure of Indian women.  Others, including Muriel, are forced by
frailty and dwindling pensions to leave the homes of their birth and
venture forward.

Moggach has written a fast-paced
comedy with engaging and sympathetic characters.  She highlights the
indignities of growing old in a society where nuclear families do not
exist.  She delves into the complexities of marriage and children,
filial duty vs. self-realization.  And she does so in a zany romp
through the streets of Bangalore, giving the reader a good look at the
squalor amidst the glamorous hotels and new service industries.

This book is now a major motion picture starring Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Dev Patel.

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