Thursday 29 August 2013


Book review: Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach

My edition: Paperback, published on 29 August 2013 by Vintage, 387 pages.

Description: When retired actor Buffy decides to up sticks from London and move to rural Wales, he has no idea what he is letting himself in for.

In possession of a run-down B&B that leans more towards the shabby than the chic and is miles from nowhere, he realises he needs to fill the beds - and fast.

Enter a motley collection of guests: Harold, whose wife has run off with a younger woman; Amy, who's been unexpectedly dumped by her (not-so) weedy boyfriend and Andy, the hypochondriac postman whose girlfriend is much too much for him to handle.

But under Buffy's watchful eye, this disparate group of strangers find they have more in common than perhaps they first thought...


Retired actor Russell Buffery, or Buffy as he's more widely known, has been living and working in London for the better part of his life. However, when his close friend Bridie passes away and leaves him her B&B in a small village in Wales, Buffy decides that this is as good a time as any for a much-needed change of scenery. He soon packs up his belongings and moves from the bustling big city to the quiet middle of nowhere.

What follows is the utterly charming and heartwarming story of Buffy's new life in Wales and the eclectic guests that end up staying in his home, Myrtle House. The chatty actor is much more than just the man who rents out rooms and makes the full English in the morning. Sometimes he takes on the role of therapist as helps his guests rekindle their love for one another and at other times he provides the evening's entertainment in the form of a poetry recital. The B&B's inviting atmosphere and its welcoming host soon influence the tenants' lives and in turn they also leave a positive mark on Buffy. Add to that the villagers themselves, who increasingly take centre stage as the story progresses and they warm up to the newcomers, and Buffy's large extended family who drop it one after another, some for a short visit and others for an unexpected longer stay, and the cast of fascinating characters central within the novel is complete.

Deborah Moggach, despite having a wealth of novels to her name, is probably most widely known as the author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (first published as These Foolish Things), which was adapted into a film with some of the British crème de la crème, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, in 2011. What made that novel, and consequently the film, so outstanding is that it focussed on an elder generation in a fresh and modern way. They were not, as so commonly is the case in books these days, the supporting characters lingering only in the background, but instead they were the most trivial part of the story and it was refreshing to read it from their point of view.

While Heartbreak Hotel initially sounds like it has a very similar premise, focussing on a pensioner and the guests he welcomes into his home, the similarities in fact end there. The characters vary wildly in age and background and having the story set in Wales brings it much closer to home and makes it feel very true to life. What makes this novel even more delightful for me personally is that I read it during a Bank Holiday break away in the English countryside and I was staying in a B&B myself (for the first time, what a treat!). So not only did Moggach's lush descriptions help me visualise Buffy's Myrtle House and the charming Welsh village, with the rolling hills in the background and the community feel amongst its residents, but I could actually see it with my own eyes when I glanced outside the window while flipping to the next page.

Heartbreak Hotel is a captivating and sweet story about ordinary people who through different circumstances in their lives all end up in Buffy's temporary, and sometimes not so temporary, care. While their individual journeys are perhaps not what epic adventures or enchanting fairytales are made of, theirs is definitely a story worth telling and Moggach does it with a lot of flair and heart. The novel is a lovely read for young and old alike, as there is something to be found within the pages for each generation to relish and enjoy.

You can order your copy from,, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about author Deborah Moggach? You can connect with her online at:

Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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