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Zenith Hotel - Oscar Coop-Phane

4.5 of 5 stars

 

I was sent a copy of this book in pdf format by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

 

"'I'm a street prostitute. Not a call girl or anything, no a real street whore, with stiletto heels and menthol cigarettes.'

Nanou gives a detailed account of her day, from the moment she wakes up with a foul taste in her mouth, in her sordid rented room, until the minute she crawls into her bed at night to sleep. Interwoven with her story are stark portraits of her clients" 

 

This is the tale of Nanou, a street prostitute, writing down the details of her day. It is interspersed with pages detailing the background of the clients she encounters on that day, each with his own story to tell. Nanou doesn't seek sympathy, she has come to accept her lot in life, believing herself to be worth nothing more and resigned to the fact that this is her lot in life until the end.

 

This is a short novel, one easily read in a spare hour or two but one which will stay with you for much longer. It may be short on word count but each word used is perfectly placed and utilised to its full potential. This is not a light-hearted read. It's gritty, dark and bittersweet. Whilst we as readers can feel some pity or sorry for Nanou and her clients there is also some ray of hope - at least for the men in the story in that Nanou brings some form of comfort to their otherwise lonely or sad lives.

 

This is, at it's simplest, a beautifully written tale, giving a brief glimpse into lives we normally try to forget exist. Brutal, explict and honest, Zenith Hotel goes beyond the glamour of Paris to show an unseen society, hidden from view by our own blindness to it.

 

Comments have been made and praise has been given about how young Oscar Coop-Phane was when he wrote this Prix de Flore winning novel (he was in his early 20s). However I think it should simply be applauded that anyone, at any age, can write with such sensitivity, insight and feeling.

 

Highly recommended.