Bob Comet is a loner. He has tried to engage with other people, Ethan and Connie, but they ended up going off with each other and so he was left on his own. Self-sufficient and a man used to the routines of retirement, reading and walking, he finds a woman in a local shop who is obviously lost. He manages to return her to the local care home and decides that he can help them.
As an ex-librarian, he thinks they would like to listen to stories so starts with some obscure story about a cat being hung up, moves on to Dostoevsky and then abandons it completely but keeps on turning up, encouraged by the manager Marie.
Events trigger returning to a childhood adventure when he ran away for four days and stayed at Hotel Elba, all a bit fantastical in these days – a child on their own living in a hotel and being looked after a couple of women who call themselves thespians. Probably not!
Eventually, Bob ends up living in the care home, friends with the other residents and the manager so a happy ending. But, I am not really sure what the message of this book is.
It is a quirky, gentle read with Bob reflecting on the past and the trauma of the betrayal by his only two friends which he manages to overcome towards the end of his life. He dreamed most of his life of the Hotel Elba but towards the end of the book he dreamed of it as ‘the halls empty but resonant with the sense of someone only just departed’. Is this what is happening to his mind? He seems to be more forgetful and strugling which is why he moves into the care home. I just don’t know!
I didn’t understand his previous book French Exit either.