Title: The Swank Hotel
Author: Lucy Corin
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
The themes explored in “The Swank Hotel” are large and sometimes hit home very closely. There is familial loss, grief, a tangled web of relationships, and a lot of times just plain confusion.
It took me a while to even get to the core of the novel – which is discontentment, the madness surrounding all of us, the madness we are all a part of it, and yet constantly living day after day.
Em, a corporate employee is haunted by her sister’s disappearance. Her sister, Ad, who has battled mental illness for much of her adult life, and this disappearance isn’t a new one. This plagues her everyday living to a large extent and there is this unspoken guilt that she cannot get rid of. At the same time, there is her manager Frank who has a long-time affair with a married man, Jack, who Em obsesses about. We also meet Em’s parents who are in the state of constantly building their home, which also becomes about their age.
The plot of The Swank Hotel is perhaps not a plot in that sense and yet there is so much going on in it. The structure of the book moves from stream of consciousness at times to vignettes to people just being left half-way in the plot only to come back with no tying up of the story, and yet everything comes together in its own way at its own pace. The writing is sharp, meandering, touches the core, and sometimes just the surface, and all of it is imperfectly perfect, just like life and the medley of characters we encounter in this work that is experimentative and unique.