November 2023

The Hotel Nantucket

— If you are looking for the ultimate beach comfort book, look no further.
The Hotel Nantucket
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If you are looking for the ultimate beach comfort book, look no further. The Hotel Nantucket has it all: sweet summer romances, breezy island life, luxurious getaway vibes, a close-knit community, and good-natured gossip, all told through the lens of love. Elin Hilderbrand has crafted the standout romance fiction novel of 2022, so if you’re in the mood for a feel-good story—or not ready for summer to end—this is my personal recommendation to you. Told from the point of view of an omniscient, self-appointed town gossiper, The Hotel Nantucket centers around the renovation and reopening of a local hotel with a curious history, financed by British billionaire, Xavier Darling— whose interest in the property seems to center around gaining the utmost approval of online travel mogul, Shelly Carpenter. As the hotel prepares for its 2022 summer launch, a staff of natives and outsiders alike is hired by local sweetheart and newly minted general manager, Lizbet Keaton, who has recently undergone a traumatic breakup that seems to be everyone’s business. As a diverse lineup of characters is recruited and introduced, we learn more about these individuals and the quaint town of Nantucket. We watch as they attempt to band together in pursuit of Shelly Carpenter’s elusive five-key hotel rating, and the relationships which result are unexpected, to say the least. This book makes you feel like you are truly a part of the many islanders who collectively dish on the latest scandals or crane their necks to get a better view of a private exchange. But at the end of the day, you come to know and love this inseparable community, because Hilderbrand’s vision of Nantucket feels like home.

Hilderbrand rightfully flaunts a fresh and quippy writing style, instantly drawing in readers with her talent for scrumptiously descriptive passages and a brightly energized narrative tone. Simultaneously, this is perhaps the most meticulous yet organized writing I’ve ever come across: The structure likens to a gossip column, with each chapter paralleling a new week’s publication as it babbles about pertinent characters and their pasts. My first impressions of characters were undone and reshaped as I read on, and the specificity used in recounts of their personal backgrounds—delightful restaurant atmospheres and names, delicious food concoctions, clothing brands and styles, contemporary nautical décor, beachy architecture— completely immersed me in this modern yet scenic setting. I became attached to the town of Nantucket and its inhabitants. From the first paragraph of The Hotel Nantucket, Hilderbrand’s Nantucket is designated a desirable fictional world full of never-ending sun and buzz:

Nantucket Island is known for its cobblestone streets and red-brick sidewalks, cedar shingled cottages and rose-covered arches, long stretches of golden beach and refreshing Atlantic breezes—and it’s also known for residents who adore a juicy piece of gossip (which hot landscaper has been romancing which local real estate mogul’s wife—that kind of thing). However, none of us are quite prepared for the tornado of rumors that rolls up Main Street, along Orange Street, and around the rotary out to Sconset when we learn that London-based billionaire Xavier Darling is investing thirty million dollars in the crumbling eyesore that is the Hotel Nantucket.

In addition to charming syntax and world-building, the novel parades characters rich with  history, as proven by the depth carefully assigned to each character. It feels as though Hilderbrand pulled from firsthand experience, having observed a real-life group of people before  jotting down their quirks and traits. Through such attentive character depictions, The Hotel Nantucket encourages meaningful connection with other humans, just as it also preaches the  notion of never judging a book by its cover. Each character possesses a persona easily explained  by stereotypes and preconceived notions—and judgment is certainly passed by other  characters—but upon further examination, these Nantucket Hotel employees each have their own baggage. They are, most importantly, human beings. Hilderbrand’s character development is a  reminder of both our own prejudices as well as the universality of the human experience. 

Though The Hotel Nantucket includes elements of present day, such as social media and  modern pop culture references, this book is for every age. Hilderbrand utilizes references and  even characters spanning generations. (Did I mention the hotel ghost who was killed in a 1922  fire? Yes, it really is for everyone.) One hundred years of songs, celebrities, historical events,  and trends are peppered throughout the novel, supplementing the comprehensiveness of this  fictional world. 

The primary messages and themes of The Hotel Nantucket are humble and heartwarming.  Through Shelly Carpenter’s selective hotel ratings, Hilderbrand emphasizes how the heart of a  hotel is not in its materialistic features but in its staff—the people who come together to create a  pleasant experience. But she is not only talking about hotels. She streamlines messages about love, relationships, and community through a romantic, nostalgic, and lighthearted story, but  don’t get me wrong; The Hotel Nantucket is a realistic slice of life, so it also touches on  heartbreak, trauma, healing, and other serious realities. Both the beauty and hardships of life and  romance exist in this realistic piece of fiction—though Hilderbrand tends to be playful in her  delivery, which is splendidly refreshing. 

Our favourite quote from The Hotel Nantucket

But the secret to success for any bathroom,” Lizbet says to Jill, “isn’t how it looks; it’s how it makes the guest look.

Lizbet Keaton, a Nantucket darling, is desperate for a second act after a painful breakup with a longstanding boyfriend. When she is named the new general manager of the Hotel Nantucket, a once-gilded-age jewel that has become an abandoned eyesore, she hopes that her local expertise and charismatic staff will win the favour of their new London billionaire owner, Xavier Darling, as well as Shelly Carpenter, the wildly popular Instagram tastemaker who can help put them back on the map. And, while the Hotel Nantucket looks to be a tranquil haven, complete with a famous chef-run restaurant and a serene wellness centre, there's a lot going on behind closed doors. The hotel's staff (and guests) have complex pasts, and the property can't seem to shake its terrible image from 1922, when a devastating fire killed nineteen-year-old chambermaid Grace Hadley. With Grace happily haunting the hallways, staff riddled with secrets, and Lizbet's own love uncertainties, is the Hotel Nantucket doomed?

The Hotel Nantucket provides something for everyone in this gripping summer drama, filled with the emotional depth and numerous points of view that characterise Hilderbrand's novels (The Blue Bistro, Golden Girl), as well as a sprinkling of Roaring Twenties history.

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Elin Hilderbrand, who is known for her quintessential summertime novels, has personal  experience as a Nantucket resident and has spent many a summer in Cape Cod. Other books of hers, such as Golden Girl, Summer of ’69, Troubles in Paradise, and countless others, embody  the same warm, summery feeling as The Hotel Nantucket—often with a similar grounded  supernatural component. The Hotel Nantucket is a New York Times Bestseller, and  Hilderbrand’s popular yet bittersweet romance, 28 Summers, is in development with MCR, an  independent and well-known film studio. Hilderbrand is also a breast cancer survivor, and she is  now a dedicated activist. She once shared the following mantra at an American Cancer Society  luncheon: “I would take cancer again—and why? Because it is only in facing that which  threatens your very being that you learn what it means to be alive.” It is obvious that this  inspiring mindset is what influences the core messages of her books.

There is no luck, you work hard and study things intently. If you do that for long and hard enough you're successful.