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A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies by Ellen Cooney

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher:Pantheon (November 22, 2005)
Genre:Literary Fiction

Comments about the author: Ellen Cooney is author of the critically-acclaimed novels Gun Ball Hill (University of New England Press in 2004), THE WHITE PALAZZO (Coffee House, 2002), THE OLD BALLERINA (Coffee House, 2000), ALL THE WAY HOME Small Town Girl (Putnam), and (Houghton Mifflin/Dell). Her new novel, A PRIVATE HOTEL FOR GENTLE LADIES, will be published by Knopf in 2005.

Ellen has received endorsements from Jane Hamilton and others, and has taught creative writing at Harvard, Radcliffe, MIT and Boston College. She has been published repeatedly in The New Yorker and anthologized in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES. (1)

Review: Ellen Cooney is a talented writer with style and flair for unraveling her novel by connecting seasons with self-discovery. Her newest novel, “A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies” is a tale filled with innocence, betrayal, journeys into places undiscovered, sensuality, friendships, secrets, and eventual independence.

Cooney sets her story in the early 1900s. Charlotte Heath, a young and beautiful woman, but from modest beginnings, marries into a wealthy family. One day, she accidentally catches her handsome husband kissing a woman at the corner of their prestigious Massachusetts town. She surreptitiously absconds from her husband, family, and life to decide what to do next. She heads to The Beechmont: A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies where her former house servant and friend, Mrs. Petty now works as a chef. Her arrival at The Beechmont begins her journey into self discovery, sensual encounters, and affirms her goals as a woman.

Cooney paints Charlotte’s stay at the Beechmont as a canvass awaiting the colors to fill in the white, blank to create a full masterpiece. While Charlotte hides from her life, traumatized by her husband’s actions, she also encounters a motley crew of fascinating characters which enhance her life. Through their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, she visualizes her life more clearly.

The storyline is gracious, hopeful, and memorable. The Massachusetts winter season illuminates the winds, freezing weather, and melting snow. Charlotte’s situation parallels the changes of ice that remains cold, dry, and bare; eventually ice evolving into water which quenches, refreshes, and vitalizes the human spirit.

— Reviewed by: Mona Lisa Safai
Mona Lisa Safai

Mona Lisa Safai is a freelance writer, poet, and reviewer.



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