My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Back cover blurb
When Simon and his parents arrive in the small town of Reception and check in to the Ottoman Motel, things between them are tense but normal. Then, while Simon is asleep, his mother and father disappear.
Are they lost? Has something terrible happened to them? Have they simply driven away and left him? All Simon knows is that he is alone in a strange town.
Madaline, the local police constable, is kind. Ned Gale and his kids give Simon a place to stay. In the bar down at the Ottoman, Jack Tarden and the other locals are sympathetic. But why does it seem as if no one is trying to find Simon’s parents?
The Ottoman Motel paints a bleak, haunting picture of a small seaside town and the secrets that are eating it away from the inside out. Simon’s fear and confusion at the loss of his parents is eloquently portrayed, and the desire to find out whether this mystery would be solved kept me engaged and invested.
In saying that, I found the first few chapters after Simon’s parents had disappeared a bit of a slog. A myriad of characters are introduced and many of these characters’ actions are hard to understand or decipher. Instead of being intriguing, I found this frustrating and off putting. I think it’s important to mention that my reading preference is for novels written in first person, told from the perspective of one or two characters. This novel is told in third person, from the perspective of many different characters, which means it takes longer to understand any of the characters fully. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that approach, it’s just not my preference, so naturally it will take me longer to warm to a story told in that format.
But warm to it I did. As the story progressed, I got to know Madaline the police officer, Ned the hotel owner and his peculiar children, Pony the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Jack Tarden, Kuiper, Ivy and the list goes on… As I found out more about these characters, their actions began to make sense, and the complexity of the story drew me in. By about halfway, I was so intrigued that I read the rest of the book in the space of a few hours, sitting on the lawn in a lovely patch of winter sun.
When I finished the final page, I had that delightfully bittersweet feeling – happy to have reached the end, sad there was no more. Although the ending left some threads unresolved, I felt satisfied, because I could imagine for myself how those elements would be resolved. And sometimes, that’s even more enjoyable than being told.
Currie’s style is evocative and, at times, almost lyrical. Some of his narrative made me shiver, that’s how enjoyable it was. Here’s one of my favourites lines: ‘Kuiper’s voice slid down Simon’s back like cold water.’ – Can’t you just feel his discomfort?
At other times, I found the writing almost too poetic. While these passages were beautifully written, they drew my attention to the style of writing and away from the story itself.
If I gave my thoughts on each of the characters in The Ottoman Motel, this post would end up novel-sized itself. So I’ll just focus on my favourites – Simon and Tarden.
Simon was 100% real to me. I could feel his fear, his confusion, his frustration, his anger, and most of all, his desire to have things back ‘the way they were’. Currie has done a brilliant job depicting an eleven-year-old boy in the midst of the most traumatic event of his life, and the further I got into the story, the more affection I felt for this naieve, terrified, yet courageous child.
Now onto Jack Tarden. Saying that Tarden was one of my favourite characters might give the wrong impression. He’s not exactly a likeable guy, but I found him the most intriguing and complex character of them all, and the more I found out about him, the more I wanted to know. I’d elaborate, but for fear of including spoilers, I think I’d best leave it at that.
Would I recommend this book?
Most definitely. If you find it slow-going to begin with, perservere. It’s well worth it. One word of caution – although the protagonist is a child, this is definitely adult fiction. It contains themes and language unsuitable for children and younger teens.
What’s your opinion?
Have you read The Ottoman Motel? If so, what did you think? I love talking about books and hearing people’s different points of view, so please share!
Make sure you read the acknowledgements at the end of this book. Author Christopher Currie caused a major global sensation by proposing to his girlfriend in the very last sentence!