The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett

In 1902 Arnold Bennett told the world an extraordinary tale of events at london’s most prestigious hotel: The Grand Babylon Hotel.

A hotel founded in 1869 by Félix Babylon, the son of a successful Swiss hotelier, to offer the finest service and the utmost discretion to royalty and the creme de la creme of European society.

He succeeded in creating the hotel of his dreams.

He had a peerless team to support him: Jules ran the dining room, Rocco ran the kitchen, and Miss Spencer ran the reception desk.

Bust everything changed when multi-millionaire American Theodore Racksole, and his daughter Nella, come to stay. It is Nella’s birthday and her proud father tells her she must have exactly what she wants for dinner. She asks for fillet steak and a bottle of Bass for dinner. Not what is expected of a young lady, and Rocco refuses to cook and Jules refuses to serve.

Her father is not amused, and he goes straight to the top. When he gets there he offers to buy the hotel. His offer is accepted: Félix had been wanting to do other things, and could see that Theodore really understood the philosophy, and the hard work, that underpinned the hotel’s success.

But he gives Theodore a warning: that a hotel that offers service and discretion to the great and the powerful would also attract plotters, schemers, and evil-doers.

He was right.

An equerry is found murdered. His body disappears.  A prince fails to arrive for an important meeting in the hotel …

The new owner realised that his hotel was indeed full of dubious characters – and that many of them were on the payroll.

Father and daughter decided that they had to get to the bottom of things.

They find secret plots, shady dealings, kidnappings, secret passages, narrow escapes, heroic rescues, shocking confessions – action and drama at every turn.

And just a hint of romance …

I liked the hero and heroine. I must confess that hadn’t been sure about him at first, but I soon sure that he was a good, honourable, straightforward man who was more than ready to support his words with actions. And that she was most definitely her father’s daughter.

I liked the settings too: the story took in every corner of the hotel, and it travelled back and forth across the English Channel to continental Europe as well.

It was all highly improbable, but the construction of the plot was very clever, and I can’t fault the logic at all.

The style was simple and straightforward, the story was compelling, and so I turned the pages quickly.

It felt to me like a children’s adventure story for grown-ups – not great literature, but a great entertainment.

Thank you Cat, for pointing me towards The Grand Babylon Hotel.

Who would have thought that such things were going on behind those famous doors?!

8 responses

  1. An adventure story for grownups is a perfect way to describe it. Glad you enjoyed it! Clayhanger seems to be the book of his most mentioned often so I plan to read that soon.

  2. I have this book!! I bought it at the library’s Book Cellar, it’s an old copy in beautiful condition. I haven’t read any more Arnold Bennett since The Old Wives’ Tale which I really liked. I’ll have to move this up on the TBR list. Thanks for the review!

  3. This has the makings of a great book! I love the hotel setting and the father/daughter team. Sometimes a lively adventure is exactly what is called for.

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