Saturday, 12 September 2015

Book & Film Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Normally on a Saturday I watch a film to review, recently it's been the Lord of the Rings trilogy but as I spent last Saturday making Welsh cakes I didn't squeeze in The Return of the King, so I figured I'd review the film I watched while I was in Wales. And as it's based on a book, I'll review that at the same time and kill two birds with one blog post. P.S. Mum, if you've not read the book yet, you might not want to read this post. There'll be spoilers!

I've had The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach on my bookcase for quite a while. I was so desperate to read it that I actually picked up the film cover edition of the book in a charity shop (I normally avoid those ones, just in case people think I'm just reading the book because of the film, because I'm a snob like that).

Previously published under the title These Foolish Things, the book follows a group of British pensioners, each with personal struggles from Muriel who is stuck in a hospital waiting for treatment for days, to Evelyn who is suddenly alone and broke, to Norman who doesn't realise just what a burden he is on his family. A couple of cousins come up with an idea to help ship them off to India to a low cost care home there, and so not only do the group of elderly characters collide, but so do two entirely different continents.

As I said, I had this on my bookshelf for quite a while but my opportunity to read it came when I needed to find a book for the Reading Challenge which was set in a country I'd always wanted to visit. I had plenty of choices of countries and I'll admit my top choice probably would've been New Zealand or Canada, but I didn't know if I had any books in my collection set in one of those countries, so I decided to work with what I had. India is one of those countries that fascinates me, so The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ticked that box.

Once I started it, I didn't want to put it down. I started it on the 24th of July and finished it on the 27th, that included a couple of times where I read late into the night because I just didn't want to put it down. It's a fairly gentle kind of story, it builds up gradually. You're introduced to the characters one by one and then each strand joins together to weave the main story. It's a clever way of telling the story because even though there are people you might not care for, you can't wait to see what the other characters make of them.

Obviously this storytelling technique meant that I developed favourite characters. My favourites were Evelyn, Dorothy and Douglas. At first Norman made me cringe but he really grew on me as I went on. I ended up feeling really sorry for him as the book went on.

Given the subject matter, elderly people living in a retirement home, I suppose I shouldn't have been shocked by the fact that people died in the story. But I was surprised. Or rather, the people who died took me by surprise. I thought that all the people in the story would get their happily ever afters in India and that just wasn't the case. Especially Norman, poor, poor Norman.

As my copy had the film poster on the front cover I couldn't help but try and imagine who would be played by whom in the film. I got Judi Dench as Evelyn right, but I think I was wrong for most of the others. Norman struck me as the type who would be best suited to be played by Bill Nighy; I was imagining him as the sort of character he played in Love Actually with hints of his character from The Boat That Rocked. In the film Nighy actually plays Douglas. And the fantastic Maggie Smith played Muriel; I'd imagined her playing Dorothy (who wasn't even in the film at all).

I guessed that there would be changes between the book and the film. It was obvious from the fact that the hotel in the book is run by a fifty-year-old man when from the trailers I knew he was being played by the definitely-not-fifty-year-old Dev Patel. But there were quite a few things that were different.

Some I was expecting. The book has quite a slow build-up. I think the book is about a third of the way through before the OAPs start moving to the hotel, whereas that's glossed over quite quickly within the first few minutes of the film. Dorothy and Graham are merged into the one character and there's a romance for the younger viewers as well. Others came as a surprise to me. I was waiting for Norman to kick the bucket and then Graham hit it instead. Jean was a bit of a cow right from the very start, instead of half of an adventurous couple.

Despite it being a different sort of film to what I might have expected from the book. I still loved it. The different storytelling medium just meant that some things had to be changed. The changes made sense and I very quickly got absorbed into the story. You wound up routing for the characters, for the couples, for the hotel.

The way it was filmed was beautiful as well. There were times when you just wanted to pause the film and look at it like a pretty picture. I've only seen it the once and I've not seen the second yet, though as Mr Click is yet to see both of them, I suspect we'll be getting them on DVD soon.

Yes, it was different from the book, but it was funny and clever and touching. When certain characters hugged or looked at each other it gave me those little butterflies in my stomach which I get when I care about the characters. I laughed A LOT while I was watching it. I didn't even do any colouring in while we were watching it.

So I would recommend both the book and the film. I'd suggest you read the book first, because that's the way that these things should be done, but see the film too. It's the same, but different, and so, so good.


  1. I haven't read the book, but I'd like to after your review. I've seen both films - but in the wrong order. It didn't seem to matter, I coped! (Someone else had taken my Mum to see the first one and she asked me to take her to see the sequel. The original was on TV a bit later so I caught up with it that way. I think I enjoyed the second one best because it was my first, if that makes sense.)
    Anabel's Travel Blog

    1. They've obviously made the films in such a way that they work as standalones as well then. :-) You should definitely read the book, but be prepared for things to be quite different.

  2. Yes - I watched the film the other evening for the first time and hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed it particularly the scenery - totally recommend :)

    1. It's definitely one to watch again. The way it was filmed was beautiful.

  3. I really liked the film, though it seemed in some quarters to be the done thing to hate it. Cool kids be damned, I liked it. Haven't seen the sequel yet, or read the book, but I'm with you on book covers proclaiming 'Now A Major Motion Picture' or 'Now A Major TV Series' I will always go for the original cover is given the option. And your attempts to put actors to characters based on the book cover reminded me of reading Murder on the Orient Express as a kid which had a cover advertising the movie made of it in the 70s. I spent ages placing each actor to the roles and then when I got round to the film found I was wrong several times over!

    1. A lot of the time I think if the critics pan something then it's usually got a pretty good chance of being really good.

      I much prefer the book cover to the film cover, but there've been a couple of books I've picked up recently in charity shops (this one and Never Let Me Go in particular) where I just really wanted to read the story and decided I didn't mind too much about the book cover, hehe.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't judge characters and actors in these things. Perhaps it's just because the actors have been playing against type. ;-)

  4. They sound quite different. I've wanted to see the movie for awhile because of the all-star cast. Not sure when I'd find the time for the book!

    1. You should definitely watch the film even if you've not got time to read the book right away. It's one of those lovely gentle films you can relax to on a weekend. ;-)


Let me know what you think. :-)