As you read this, is your hand sightlessly wandering over to gather up a snack, something quick to munch and assuage that grumble making itself known? Diane Marina’s novella Imperial Hotel (Aspen Palms Press, January, 2014) is just such a literary nibble. But please don’t misunderstand: the author has invested substantial time and effort in this tale, placed in a setting quite unique from her other works.
Available on Amazon, it is described as follows:
In a posh hotel in New York City in 1948, two young socialites are introduced by their mothers. As their friendship grows, so does love. Will Lily and Joan’s love prevail? Are they brave enough to stand up against the social standards of the time, or will their love simply become part of the history of the Imperial Hotel?
Joan and Lily’s initial meeting is a polite affair where they are very aware of their mothers’ expectations. Their socialite lives revolve around entertainment, personal and familial advancement, and good causes. Joan is struck by the slightly younger and engaged Lillian Dandridge who is to marry the “wonderful” Andrew in the coming Spring. The forthright and rather daring young woman should be encouraging her new friend to consider the route of matrimony more seriously, but their rapidly deepening friendship becomes a distraction over the winter months. Their stumbling efforts to meet internal and external expectations foster tensions between them and the compacting timeline forces desperate efforts to carve out time and space with one another as the wedding date draws closer.
Using contextual details to reinforce the plot, the author successfully recreates Manhattan in the early 1950’s. Venues, events, and vernacular unique to the period smoothly place us in the bustling, optimistic New York, where we can feel the pressure to grow, to follow and to be more of the traditional American Dream. Lily and Joan’s responses to one another reflect their age and social standing, revealing inflexible adherence to their individual perspectives, and their efforts to “have it all” result in desperate decisions and sorrow. Their poor communication skills are quite believable for young women in their social strata, confused and overwhelmed by the choices their relationship impels them to make.
This novella seeks to encapsulate almost two years in which Lily and Joan make formative and powerfully impactful decisions and we observe how two young women move from relative innocence to somewhat bruised acceptance. Both of these young characters are relatable – Joan’s emotional honesty and mental integrity counters Lily’s youthful determination to meet social expectations, while isolating the very ones she loves. Following these two lovely young women as they grow up with and through each other was a brief enjoyment. The movement through the stages of confusion, recognition, and acceptance that mark their relationship are very familiar but come across as somewhat staccato, in part I think, due to the book length.
I believe that this story could have successfully been developed into a full length novel and thus enabled the author to provide more relational ballast against which decisions and events could more believably unfold. More backstory would have given me a deeper appreciation and more patience for some of their conversations and interactions. I would have loved to observe some of the challenges two women experienced, as they made their way together during this dynamic period of American growth and global prominence.
Nevertheless, I am pleased to see more authors and publishers recognizing the demand for this story length and investing much effort in providing readers with a widening selection to pick from. In Imperial Hotel, the author has packed this dynamic city and historical span with a sweet love story that provides what you the expected: a novella that will entertain you.
You can download a sample or purchase Imperial Hotel by clicking here.