Adult Book Reviews · Book Reviews 2014 · Contemporary Books

‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach

Enticed by advertisements for a newly restored palatial hotel and filled with visions of a life of leisure, good weather and mango juice in their gin, a group of very different people leave England to begin a new life in India.

3.25 Stars (Rounded to 3)

The reasoning behind reading this book is that it is actually the book from which the film ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is adapted. I love that film, and found it to be very charming and hilarious, so my expectations going into the book were rather high. I can conclude that while the book was a decent book, the similarities between the film and book are very, very few and far between, and the stories are actually pretty different. I did enjoy this book, but in a different way to the film.

Part of the reason that I adored the film so much was the humour. Even though ‘These Foolish Things’ is labelled ‘a comedy of manners’ (and I suppose it technically fits the category) it did not feel particularly funny when reading it. This was a tad disappointing, as I was expecting it to be an amusing read, but nonetheless there were aspects of the book which made up for it slightly. The book focuses a lot more on the ideas of death and the more negative aspects of old age than the film does; the film’s approach is a lot more centred of seizing the day and the idea of ‘you’re as young as you feel’. The book’s take wasn’t a bad read, and in fact I feel that quite a few points raised in the book, such as the attitude issues with British/American children when compared to poverty-stricken children and the movement away from the ideal of younger generations looking after their elders in their old age, are very valid ideas that were worth raising. I did like the points, but they were not hugely like what I was expecting: I was just expecting a different approach to the one of the book, based on its film counterpart.

There are a considerable amount of characters and viewpoints throughout the story. My particular favourites were Ravi, an London-based Indian doctor desperate to get rid of his father-in-law, Douglas Ainslie, a man questioning his 48-year marriage, and Evelyn Greenslade, a widowed woman left alone by her two middle-aged children. I was also rather fond of Muriel Donnelly, a racist woman in search of her missing son, however I could not stop picturing Maggie Smith’s portrayal of the character in the film, which was a lot more enjoyable than the written character. Besides the aforementioned characters, it actually got really rather confusing following the amount of perspectives that the book does. Quite a few characters who crop up regularly, such as many members of the retirement home, are virtually interchangeable, and it makes it very muddled when faced with about five women with little significance who all play pretty similar parts. On the other hand, there were characters such as Graham, who I felt had a lot of potential and yet had very little in the way of storyline. Maybe a few ideas should have been cut, and other worked upon a lot more, to produce a book which is a lot less crammed and difficult to follow.

Despite my slight struggle to come to grips with everyone’s names and roles, and my disappointment that the book did not bear any resemblance to the film, I did enjoy reading this. The writing was generally very strong, there were very likeable ideas, and plots such as Doug’s struggle and Dorothy’s history were very strong. I just had a set idea in my head about this book, and it unfortunately did not follow it at all, leaving me focused more on my disappointment than the pros of the book.


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