Saturday 8 March 2014

Book Review: The Hotel Fakir; Adam Smolka

My second full-length Goodreads 'First-Reads' Giveaway review. I didn't think it would take me long to finish this one (I was right), it was less than a hundred pages long! In all honesty, it wasn't really my cup of tea and there are a lot of instances here where I may come across as a bit critical. I'm entering into the 'Quick Fix Challenge' as I think it more than qualifies! As per usual, look out for the Button at the bottom of this post!

SOURCE: Goodreads Giveaway
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Hotel Fakir
AUTHOR: Adam Smolka
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace Independent Publishers
GENRE: Thriller, Suspense

RATING: 1/5 Stars

NOTE: There was no actual Blurb on this book, so I've used the Goodreads description instead.

The Hotel Fakir is a novella in four parts. The image of a Cunard Ocean Liner unites the parts, offering a metaphor of escape and adventure that epitomizes our search for meaning and romance. Centre stage is the Hotel Fakir, an ante-bellum Charleston mansion, now a tango salon that attracts those seeking connection through tango. Among them is Dolores, a tango instructor at the Hotel Fakir; Amancio, a White House aide; Ignatio Quiroga, an exiled Argentine General; and Max, a blocked writer who is seduced by the hypnotic cadences of tango. Their interactions and obsessions colour the story as remote history and sea island culture impinge on life in the Hotel Fakir; events in Argentina have tragic repercussions in Charleston, and we come to understand that life is ever subservient to our embrace of love.

What I Liked:
  • The writing style is good. His use of language displays great talent on his part and there are a number of lovely quotes and phrases found in this book. I had no problem with the way Smolka wrote.
  • Smolka really knew his stuff when it came to the subject of Tango. Seriously, I was increasingly impressed about the author's level of knowledge and written detail on the famous dance. Having read about Adam Smolka, it seems he is a great lover of the dance himself and this doesn't surprise me at all. His passion for it really comes out in his writing, and that's something I really admire.
What I Disliked:
  • I don't know much about tango. As I said before, there was a tremendous amount of detail on the ins and outs of tango as a dance. The problem is, my own knowledge is very limited and I felt a bit out of my depth. This book as it stands is aimed at people with as much passion for it as the author has.
  • I didn't connect with the characters at all. There were far too many of them, just constantly being introduced. I often forgot who people were, and the ones that I recognised/were mentioned often I just didn't feel anything for. I suppose I didn't dislike them, but I knew it was a problem when a tragedy that occurs about halfway through went practically unnoticed it seemed by both me and the other characters. No one seemed upset enough, and in turn, neither was I.
  • Everyone loves Tango! Seriously, every character that we meet in this book (there are a lot) is obsessed with tango. Be it writer, librarian, woman's right campaigner, hired thug, they all just seem to have this unswayable passion for it. Even the President loves it! Every conversation would go something like:"Hi, I don't know you let's chat." "Okay, I love tango!" "Are you kidding? Me too!" This would inevitably be followed by the two aforementioned characters dancing the tango with each other. The word 'tango' is in literally every other line and after a while I just felt it interfered rather than enhanced the story. To the point that this quote made me laugh out loud in disbelief: '...tango's pretty much a niche thing around here...' Yeah, right.
  • The plot-line felt a bit unbelievable at times. Between dances, there is actually a ghost of a story in this book. Military conspiracies, a kidnapping, arson, a gang with a vendetta. By itself, a great story-line. But when mixed with the core subject matter of the book I just couldn't quite organise it in my head. For example, during the aforementioned kidnapping, how does our hapless damsel escape her dire situation? She dances the tango with her kidnapper. I really wanted a bit more focus on either the lives and feelings of each person that attends the Hotel Fakir, or more focus on the overriding plot. There was too much of a mix and it wasn't done very well. In the end, I didn't get into either aspect as a result.
  • This last point is me nitpicking really, but it did bug me all the way through the book. The very first and last chapters are in First Person, and the rest of the story is in Third Person. I didn't really understand why this was. It's never revealed whose perspective we are reading from in the Prologue and the Coda, my belief is that it is Smolka's. However, it didn't seem entirely necessary to me. 
Overall Thoughts:
Honestly, I only thought this book was so-so. It's characters didn't grab me, the plot bordered on ridiculous at times and it felt aimed at a completely different, and very specific audience. However, I did see some potential in the way that Smolka wrote. I honestly felt that I wanted to know more about Max, Dolores, Ignatio and really like them. A set of short stories in a Tango-themed anthology would have suited this much better. Alternatively the concept of the overriding, action packed plot-line was pretty good and I would love to read a thriller involving it in some way, minus the constant bursting into dance. They really needed to be separate in order to work, in my opinion.

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