Brief synopsis (Goodreads): National Book Award finalist Cristina García delivers a powerful and gorgeous novel about the intertwining lives of the denizens of a luxurious hotel in an unnamed Central American capital in the midst of political turmoil. The lives of six men and women converge over the course of one week. There is a Japanese-Mexican-American matadora in town for a bull-fighting competition; an ex-guerrilla now working as a waitress in the hotel coffee shop; a Korean manufacturer with an underage mistress ensconced in the honeymoon suite; an international adoption lawyer of German descent; a colonel who committed atrocities during his country’s long civil war; and a Cuban poet who has come with his American wife to adopt a local infant. With each day, their lives become further entangled, resulting in the unexpected—the clash of histories and the pull of revenge and desire.

Rating: ✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I really enjoyed The Lady Matador’s Hotel. The plot is slow-moving, but that works in the book’s favor, since the characters are far more interesting and are ultimately what make the book a compelling read. In addition, the writing is charming; it has a poetic cadence that juxtaposes provocatively with the occasional gore and violent imagery.

If you’re on vacation or at the beach, I recommend picking it up! Keep reading for a more in-depth review:

Long story long: The Lady Matador’s Hotel takes place in a nameless Central American country facing political unrest. I appreciate García’s choice to not identify a specific place, because the point is that it doesn’t matter: this story and these characters are ubiquitous and their struggles universal.

The characters themselves are complex and flawed, and it’s remarkable how well García manages and directs the tension in a relatively short book. Each person contends with some inner turmoil that culminates in a literal battle between life and death, and these struggles are extraordinary in their own ways, yet familiar at the same time. Furthermore, the poetic language allows the reader to interpret dialogue and behavior in a way that’s meaningful to her. This in turn provides an opportunity to have a rich conversation about characters’ thoughts and actions. García also does a good job keeping each of the actors voices unique and distinct, which isn’t always the case in books with more than three or four protagonists.

I had a fun time reading The Lady Matador’s Hotel, and look forward to exploring more of García’s work. I have Dreaming in Cuban on my shelf, so that’s likely the next one on my list. Have you read anything by Cristina García, or is she on your TRL? Share your thoughts below!

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