13 October 2008. Welcome to the worst day of Chef Charlie Sheridan’s life, the day he’s about to lose his two great loves: his childhood sweetheart, Lulu, and the legendary Brighton hotel his grandfather, Franco Sheridan, opened in 1973.
This is the story of the Belle Hotel, one that spans the course of four decades – from the training of a young chef in the 1970s and 80s, through the hedonistic 90s, up to the credit crunch of the noughties – and leads us right back to Charlie’s present-day suffering.
In this bittersweet and salty tale, our two Michelin star-crossed lovers navigate their seaside hangout for actors, artists and rock stars; the lure of the great restaurants of London; and the devastating effects of three generations of family secrets.
When Anne Cater invited me on The Belle Hotel blog tour, I was delighted as it combined two things I absolutely love – cooking and the seaside! I absolutely love Brighton and its atmosphere of fun and nostalgia and the setting was a huge aspect of why I loved this book.
The hotel in this novel is almost a character in its own right as we follow it through history across the decades – We see it in the 70’s when I was growing up, right through until its demise around ten years ago and this was one of the things that I also really loved. Books that span various decades are always a real nostalgia-fest for me and I loved being taken back in time to my own family’s seaside holidays in the 1970s and 80s – from Punch and Judy shows to seeing Keith Harris and Orville and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Franco and Charlie’s adventures in running the Belle Hotel across the years was really enjoyable to lose yourself in. The eclectic style of the book, interspersed with recipes such as Omelette Arnold Bennett Lobster Belle Hotel also added to my enjoyment of this read as did the snippets of letters, memos and receipts. It felt like we were fully immersed in the ‘memory’ of the Hotel itself and exploring all these fragments really added to my reading experience.
I loved the idea that we time travel through the book and see the ups and downs of the Hotel’s history from the other side of the front desk. The fact that Craig Melvin has worked in this industry himself for so long means that this novel has a totally authentic feel to it and I really wondered exactly how much of it was based on his own experiences in the hotel industry across the years.
Having been a waitress in the holiday hotel industry myself as a student I found much to connect with and laugh about in these pages – I read it aloud to my sister at times to see how much she’d agree with how realistic it was. It sparked so many memories and laughs about our own experiences, through reading about some of the funny moments in the hotel’s long and frequently hilarious history and I definitely felt that the book’s eclectic structure made it easy to keep picking up and indulging in another slice of the hotel’s interesting history.
The book has been described as a ‘Foodie One Day’ by The Big Book Group and I loved that idea – the story of Charlie’s romance with his childhood sweetheart Lulu is one of the most satisfying aspects of The Belle Hotel and there are some bittersweet moments where you’ll definitely be wondering what on earth he is doing as well as plenty of times where you’ll be rooting for him.
This is a departure from the gothic reads that I’ve been immersed in over the winter and I found it a real palate cleanser to be beside the seaside enjoying the ups and downs of hotel life over the last week, reading The Belle Hotel. If you are after something totally different and feel intrigued to find out more about the fascinating history of The Belle Hotel, then grab yourself a copy right here
Thank you so much to Anne Cater and Unbound for inviting me on the tour and introducing me to another memorable and thought-provoking read that I might never have discovered otherwise. Another reason why I love #Bookblogging so very much
Follow the tour and see what the other Bookbloggers have enjoyed about it too!
Writer on the Shelf
Craig Melvin holds an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and works as restaurant consultant in London and Brighton.
He was mentored by Albert Roux at catering college and has worked in the restaurant and hotel business ever since.
He also runs http://www.lunarlemonproductions.com with his wife Mel.
The Belle Hotel is his first book.