Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach




34. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (originally published as These Foolish Things)
by Deborah Moggach
fiction, 2004
finished 6/23/12






The book cover looks very like the colors in my yard just now.



In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel we meet several people, from Dorothy, a lonely former BBC employee to also lonely Evelyn, a widow who has never held an outside job; from inconsiderate, self-absorbed Norman to kindly Douglas. We also get to know the various children of these older people, and several much younger men and women. It is a book large in scope but filled with details and descriptions which make it easy for the reader to become familiar with everyone. What they all have in common is the Marigold Hotel in Bangalore, India, an alternative life for older English individuals facing elderly residential living. The people take a leap of faith, and their lives (and prejudices) are changed in the process as they move from England to India.
Sealed into their compound, the residents lived in a world that was, in many ways, more familiar than the England they had left behind. It was an England of Catherine Cookson paperbacks and clicking knitting needles, of Kraft Dairylea portions and a certain Proustian recall.
Yet outside their hotel is India in all its glory. Bustling, noisy, full of all the various conditions of people.

Much is made of the dangers in England compared to the safety in India. I so hate to think that present-day London is as described in this book with muggings, old women not feeling safe in their long-lived in, long-loved homes, and gangs of youths scaring and harming people. I'm hoping the author exaggerated in order to better show why these folks would be happy to go off to a strange-to-them, new land.

I bought the book as soon as I heard about the movie, which I was terrifically excited to see. I read the book first, and then was quite disappointed in the movie version. It felt like a not-very-good translation of a book. Almost every facet of the book was changed except for some names and the hotel. I wonder if Deborah Moggach found it almost unrecognizable. I know I did. Afterwards I said to Tom that I didn't really like it that much, and he agreed. He used the adjective, 'contrived.' And it is. Contrived from the basic story. Snatches taken here and there. What I liked about the film were Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and India. The colors, the bustle, even the cremation. I have a longing for that country which I don't understand. Our friends who went with us said they couldn't take the crowds which would usually be my own feeling, but there's something about India that draws me. My friend wondered as we left the theatre if it was really safe for those people, particularly the women, to wander the streets, even at night, in such a carefree, fearless manner. I told her that the book mentions it being safer than England, but of course I didn't know the truth, until just recently when I came upon an article exposing the dangers to women in at least one part of India. It doesn't mention foreign women, but being an Indian woman is wrought with danger and humiliation. Another piece talks about Indian crime statistics.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is quite a good story. Good, but not great. Good characters, but maybe too many. And I will offer a caveat. It quite vividly describes a number of bodily functions, which often seemed gratuitous to me. I liked the book better than the movie, but I didn't love either one. Still, the book offered lovely passages, and interesting people, and a reading experience I'm happy to have had.

The author's website is here. It is interesting to read in her 'news' section that the book was prescient. Places like this are showing up in various countries now.

34 comments:

  1. Nan,
    I saw this movie on the plane on our trip to England, and I liked it but then, I had not read the book so I know how that can affect the perception of it.

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    1. I think I just felt that there wasn't enough time to develop the characters - to show their histories. I can't help but think that even if I hadn't read the book I would have wanted more information about the characters. The film seemed jumpy to me. Maybe too many stories in a short time??

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  2. Your accusations against the movie were echoed by many critics, which is probably what saved the movie for me. We found it charming (if two dimensional), but our expectations were lowered (and I haven't read the book). I do find the phenomenon of movies so drastically changing books that you only recognize names really frustrating, so I feel your pain from that perspective.

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    1. Oh, I didn't mean to make 'accusations.' :<) Not that strong against it. I haven't read any reviews of the movie. 'two dimensional' is really what I was trying to say, I think.

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  3. I liked reading your perspective, especially because in the past week I spoke to someone who really loved and movie and strongly recommended it (I don't think he read the book though). At some point I'd like to watch it mostly because I enjoy the work of some of these actors.

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    1. Worth seeing for Nighy and Dench alone! And the beautiful color in India.

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  4. First Nan, I wanted to comment on you lovely (new) header photo and the photos of your garden -- every thing is so green despite the lack of rain:)

    I liked reading about your thoughts on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Have been wanting to see the movie, and have bought the book. I went along with the hub's choice this weekend, Savages (also a book by Winslow); it was terrible...LOL

    Enjoy your week.

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    1. Thanks. The garden is doing great. That telescope looking thing in the middle is our new, most excellent sprinkler. It is amazing. $38 at home depot.
      Poor you. I don't think I want to see that one at all!!

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  5. Thank you for coming to my blog. We traveled to Memphis then to Nashville Tennessee to see our daughters so I have been away from blogs for over 10 days. My husband and I went to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. My husband did not like it much and I did like it, well enough. We went mostly because it was about India. Our youngest daughter married a young man whose family is from the state of Kerala in India, so we enjoy learning more about the country. I did not read the book. We saw another movie afterwards, a French movie, called the Intouchables. It was so much better - and I am pleased I saw it as a second movie. My son-in-law’s parents have invited us to go with them to India and stay in their house, but my husband does not like crowds… so it will be a while before we go, if ever.

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    1. Gosh, I'd go anyway to see the country and the family. The people in the book had to get used to crowds. Maybe it isn't that bad once you've been there a while. Would you go alone? That would be an adventure!!

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  6. I thought with such a great cast this would be a memorable movie and seemed to be similar to the friendships formed in Tea with Mussolini. I haven't seen it yet. I tend to either read the book or see the movie, not both. One or the other is sure to disappoint. I've been amazed over the years at how much the story and characters are changed and wonder why they call it by the same name when the book and movie are so dissimilar.
    Ann

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    1. I get it that some things must be changed because the mediums are so different, but it was quite extreme in this case.
      Chocolat is an example of being both a good book and movie, even though different. Same with Because of Winn-Dixie.

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  7. More often than not, it is disappointing to see a movie after having read the book. Like you, I wonder what the author of the book feels about such a movie.

    As for the safety - I used to spend a lot of time in London (but never lived there myself), my last visit took place in 2007, and I never felt particularly unsafe there; no different than I feel when I am out on my own at night in Stuttgart (the biggest city near my home town).

    India is a part of the world I have never been to but have heard a lot about. A friend of mine has travelled there 8 times and loved it, whereas my sister went to India a few years ago and says she never ever wants to go there again, although she regards the trip a very valuable experience. The way people treat other people like dirt there, the actual dirt and hygienic conditions, the rubbish everywhere, the stench... what she was happy about there was the food: being a vegetarian, she had a much wider choice of delicious dishes than if she had been looking for meaty meals.

    Your header picture is lovely!

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    1. Ah, yes, the food! I would love that. Have you read the Vish Puri mysteries by Tarquin Hall? They give a good view of the life, and the food! He also writes of the extreme corruption that is such a part of the country. Roads that just end. Projects that are never finished.
      Think of going anywhere 8 times! Wow! That's a real traveler.

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    2. I seem to remember your review of at least one of the Vish Puri mysteries. Have you read "The White Tiger"? That, for me, gives a good view of the life, too. Not so much of the food, I'm afraid :-)

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    3. I haven't but will look it up. The VP are light but filled with detail. I really love that series. Just bought the third one.

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  8. I have not read the book, but I did see the film, which I loved. I wonder if I would have had the same reaction as you, had I read the book first.

    I love your new header, Nan. Everything looks so lush and green. We are at the stage of summer in which everything is turning brown. It's been SO terribly hot. Hovering near 100 every.single.day. No relief in sight and no rain in the forecast. Hot, hot, hot!

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    1. It's one of those things that impossible to know. I usually am able to go into a movie with an open-mind, but in this one I just felt confused. As I said above, maybe too many characters?
      I haven't written about it here, but we have had the most perfect summer weather. Not too hot, plenty of sun, not many bugs, cool evenings, windows open. We could use a bit more rain but it will come. So many people are concerned about our winters being too long, but at this time of year who remembers winter?! :<)

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  9. I really enjoyed the movie, but haven't read the book yet... not my usual approach to 'book movies', but that's how it worked out this time. I still hope to read the book eventually.

    Your header photo looks so lush ad green! The lawn and garden here are suffering from the lack of rain. We're keeping our fingers crossed for some this afternoon.

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    1. Movie preferences are just like books. Some people love one, while others don't. I remember loving the movie Down With Love, and it was panned.
      We've used the sprinkler some this summer, but have had rain, too.

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  10. My daughter and I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and we both enjoyed it. I have the book somewhere here in the teetering pile, and perhaps a reading of it will add to the overall experience of the story. In the meantime, I will appreciate that seeing the movie was part of a wonderful Mother's Day outing and wonder if perhaps life inside a Catherine Cookson paperback might be a welcome respite to the constant negative noise and haranguing that abound all around us these days.

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    1. Oh, I'm sure it would be a respite. I've never read her, but there are loads of books I feel that way about. Of course, the other idea is to just not read news or listen to it or watch it. Diane Rehm and Laura Knoy are the only ones I listen to regularly. :<)

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  11. I haven't read the book but was really looking forward to the film. Like you I was disappointed, I'm glad it wasn't just me feeling grumpy. I think I would have given up but for Bill Nighy giving another good performance.
    All four of my children have been to India, and lots of friends but I'm not drawn to it, don't know why, I would rather explore Africa I think.
    Love the header, the garden is doing well.
    Carole

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    1. Oh, Bill Nighy. I would watch him just standing with that expression on his face. I love him. That's all there is to it. He's so unique.
      I don't expect I'll ever get to India or Africa. If I have money and time it will always be England. :<)
      Thanks about the photo. It's doing well.

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  12. Hmmmm ~ I was hoping to see the movie, but I didn't... and so was awaiting it on video, and didn't realize it was a book, and now I'm not sure which I want to do, read it in a better form, or see it- so I can enjoy all the colors and Judi Dench! ????

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    1. Oh, go for both of them!! Why not. Movie is def worth seeing for colors and actors.

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  13. Nan, bought this book and really did not care for it. Left me unsettled. Wondered if the movie will be better.

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    1. 'Unsettled' is a good word. I understand completely. The movie isn't as sad in some ways because a lot of the issues in the book are not explored.

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  14. I've been wanting to see this movie, but can't find a theater close by that is showing it. I may have to wait until the DVD comes out. Darn!

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    1. It shouldn't be that long. It isn't a blockbuster that will stay in the theatres for long. I might rent it and see if I still feel the same way.

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  15. This post left me much to think about! I wanted to watch the movie because I love a lot of the actors that are in it. I was at the library the other day and saw this one in the drop box and immediately asked to check it out. I hope I'm not too disappointed.

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    1. You probably won't be. The acting is great, the scenery fantastic.

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  16. I've been waiting for your review of this book Nan! I'm pretty sure you were the first person who mentioned the movie and book .... I did it the opposite way, saw the movie first. This is really the first time I've had the experience of seeing a movie supposedly based on a book but entirely different (I don't really watch a lot of movies).....it was actually disconcerting to read the book while I still remembered the movie and I wondered too if the author would even recognize it. I loved the movie, because of the actors and the gorgeous India scenes and the story, but after reading the book and thinking back a lot of the movie seemed contrived.

    In 2007 we rented a London flat for 3 months and not in a posh area either -- we walked and used only public transportation the whole time we were there and I walked alone around our own borough and never was afraid either. I was never afraid. But that was 5 years ago, so who knows....

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    1. Very interesting that you felt this way too. But yes, film was lovely with actors and scenery!
      Lucky you! I'd love to do that. Glad to hear this.

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.