Summer’s basically in full swing, which means it’s time to bring on the beach reads—and what a better way than with a book that takes place at a hotel that is specifically for people who want to hit the beach for the summer on Nantucket. The Hotel Nantucket is written by Nantucket’s queen bee, Elin Hilderbrand, and, surprisingly, this is the first I’ve read of her more typical summer reads, having only read Summer of ’69 before now. Never needing a beach more than being more or less homebound for two-and-a-half years, I was ready to be transported to the beach and enjoy my stay at this luxury hotel.
After a tragic fire in 1922 that killed 19-year-old chambermaid, Grace Hadley, The Hotel Nantucket descended from a gilded age gem to a mediocre budget-friendly lodge to inevitably an abandoned eyesore — until it’s purchased and renovated top to bottom by London billionaire, Xavier Darling. Xavier hires Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton as his general manager, and Lizbet, in turn, pulls together a charismatic, if inexperienced, staff who share the vision of turning the fate of the hotel around. They face challenges in getting along with one another (and with the guests), in overcoming the hotel’s bad reputation, and in surviving the (mostly) harmless shenanigans of Grace Hadley herself — who won’t stop haunting the hotel until her murder is acknowledged.
I really want to take a few weeks off next summer and go visit Nantucket. I’m not sure I’m a fancy enough person, I’ll be honest, but it sounds like an idyllic place to spend a summer, and Hilderbrand does such a good job of painting the location that you feel like you’re truly there. I was invested in mostly everyone’s storyline (sorry, Grace), and I was rooting for everyone to end up with their happily ever after. Though I suspected one of the big reveal moments from the very beginning (Shelley Carpenter), it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story—I kind of felt like I was a guest at the hotel, too.
Hilderbrand really knows how to navigate having a large number of characters and serving them well. There were easily 20 characters whose lives we followed, but I was never confused as to who was who and what they were doing. I loved how we just got little bits of information here and there and how everything came together at the end so nicely. I’m actually surprised she was able to wrap up all the loose ends as well as she did. The way the author was able to make all these people come to life and make them so believable is truly remarkable—she’s really gifted in that way.
The ghost story was one of the main plotlines, but I had no interest in it and thought it just made the story drag a little bit. There were enough threads and characters that the addition of Grace wasn’t really adding anything for me—especially because she wasn’t really even doing anything to help move the plot along (other than her existence, which could have easily been swapped out for something like Louis’s chess-playing or even the great food from The Blue Bistro). That whole part fell flat to me, and it’s ultimately what changed my mind from giving this book a higher rating.
That being said, I’m very interested to read another one of Hilderbrand’s Nantucket stories (I really hope none of the other ones have any ghosts in them), and I’ve heard that The Blue Bistro and The Beach Club are popular, so I’ll probably reach for one of those next. Maybe once a summer I’ll dive into Nantucket and see where the summer takes me.
“They can fix it up, but it won’t succeed. Mark my words: The Hotel Nantucket is haunted, and it’s all my father’s fault.” —Elin Hilderbrand, The Hotel Nantucket
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown & Company for the advanced copy, and to Rusty Watson on Unsplash for the featured photo.