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*****= An all-time favorite
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*        = Good, with reservations


***Hotel Bemelmans

by Ludwig Bemelmans

Reviewed January 20, 2004.
Ebury Press, London, 2002.  First published in 1956.  302 pages.
Available on in paperback.

My husband found this delightful book in Cambridge for me.  Who would have thought that the creator of Madeleine led such a colorful life?

Ludwig Bemelmans was born in a hotel in Austria.  As a teen, he lived in Regensburg, Germany, and was considered a disgrace to his family.  He didn’t pass his examinations at the Lyceum because he was “unruly, impertinent, never serious, always late, and kept bad company.”

Next, he was sent to work in his uncle’s hotels, but got fired from them all for one offence or another.  Finally, his uncle gave him a choice of reform school or America.

He went to America with letters of introduction from his uncle to other hotel people.  He ended up getting a job at the “Hotel Splendide”—the finest hotel in New York.

This book tells amazing, funny, colorful stories of life behind the scenes in an elegant hotel in the 1920s.

Ludwig Bemelmans describes people and things in unusual ways.  For example, one rich woman has “a face that had the texture of an old pocket-book, on its worn-out corners rested the ends of a mouth that was closed to with a snap.  Grey, carmine and purple veins covered her face, and patches of its skin would jump as does the skin on the flanks of horses when flies come near them.”

The book is illustrated with Ludwig Bemelmans’ evocative line drawings.  It is filled with surprising adventures and colorful characters all lurking behind the background of a high-class hotel.   This book is entertaining and diverting.

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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