Sunny Singh, Hotel Arcadia (2015)

SinghThis was my first time reading Sunny Singh, who’s written two previous novels and a variety of non-fiction; after Hotel Arcadia, I clearly need to explore that earlier work. We begin as Sam, a war photographer, wakes to find that her hotel is under attack from terrorists; rather than stay in her room, she heads out to see what images she can find. She is observed and aided by Abhi in the manager’s office, who waits anxiously for help while his lover Dieter is among those being held hostage.

Hotel Arcadia revolves around the distance between image and reality. Singh highlights the tensions of contradiction inherent in Sam’s position: a photographer who brings the reality (but is it really?) conflict to people’s attention, yet who ultimately steps in and out of others’ war-ravaged lives, and makes art from their suffering. Abhi becomes an interesting point of comparison and contrast with her:: both characters chose careers of which their parents disapproved (one because she went close to war, the other because he stayed away from it). Both have also struggled to form long-term relationships – but, while Sam finds her partner pushed away, Abhi feels liberated by his casual (so far) liaison with Dieter.

Singh makes effective use of the artificial, enclosed environment of the hotel. The actual attack is pushed into the background, heightening the focus on the two characters, and turning the hotel into a kind of parody (though not a frivolous one) of Sam’s usual working environment. In this way, the Hotel Arcadia becomes a zone of denser reality in which whole lives can be lived in the space of a few days – and we, as readers, live them all too.

Hotel Arcadia is published by Quartet Books.

More reviews of Hotel Arcadia: Samira Sawlani for Media Diversified; Live Many Lives; Liz Loves Books.

10 Comments

  1. I’ve never even heard of Sunny Singh, but this book looks fab. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  2. I’d never heard of this either but it sounds great. A fantastic premise.

    • Cathy: it’s not quite what I’d expected from the blurb (let me clarify that it’s better!), but a really interesting approach.

  3. Just read this and loved it. Sam and Abhi were wonderful characters.

  4. Thank you David. This is such a lovely review and am so chuffed you enjoyed the book. Much appreciated

  5. Nice review David of what sounds like an interesting book. I saw this as you’ll have seen from your end of year list, and have put it on a list of my own to pick up.

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