“It’s so difficult to know what you really want. There are pros and cons to everything. How does anyone decide, yes, that’s what I want? My life feels shrouded in question marks. I’m never able to see clearly because of them. They block any new route or change in my life. Sometimes I wish I could blow them away. But then, would I like that?”
Author: Galahad Porter Published: 2017 Pages: 246
At Reception is a novel centred around a hotel and the people in it, mainly the receptionist called Sally. Sally is a quirky, quiet woman who lives alone, except for her teddy bears, and talks to her flowers at work to pass the time. The novel shows the everyday life of those at the hotel and poses questions about loneliness, routine, and human interaction.
I liked Sally as a character; I liked her quirkiness and I liked seeing the hotel through her eyes as she had a refreshing perspective. My main difficulty with her was that it was very obvious that the author was a man. I found myself reading parts of the novel and thinking that, had a woman wrote the same character, she would not have included the same thoughts and streams of consciousness. There are plenty of authors who succeed in writing the opposite gender: John Green, Lisa Genova and Charlie Laidlaw, to name a few. It’s not that they write qualities specific to one gender which makes their protagonists believable, it’s that they don’t do this; they allow their characters to develop naturally and realistically making their stories more believable.
As the novel was set in a hotel, there were a lot of other characters interacting with Sally, mainly the guests and the other staff. This was interesting as Porter had to come up with a plethora of unique profiles for each new person to have. He managed this somewhat successfully, although again there were some obvious stereotypes present. The whole novel takes place over a few days so it was like having a snapshot of their lives.
Porter tried to tackle the theme of loneliness in this novel. Sally talks to her flowers and is very set in her routine, so it is obvious that she does not share her life with anyone else. But while I realise Porter wanted to portray the issue of loneliness and its affect on the life of this woman, I have seen others do it better. Maybe it was that I couldn’t get past the feeling that the protagonist didn’t feel believable enough so I never sympathised with her. I suppose Porter does achieve the sense of someone living their life with a feeling that they haven’t ever achieved anything significant.
Overall I liked the protagonist, although her character development left much to be desired, and I liked the array of people Porter had written as guests in the hotel. The ending was a nice addition to the story too; it at least added something unexpected. That’s probably what this book was missing, something unexpected. I needed more than the routine that Sally was stuck in, and because Porter didn’t give me this, I wasn’t ever very engaged with the book.
Thank you to Troubador Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.