Review of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland
This summer read makes you feel like you’re in safe hands, and you can be confident that nothing here will go seriously awry. The vivid midcentury memories are a highlight.
In Elyssa Friedland's Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, two families meet for the summer at their formerly sought-after resort in the Catskills, but the Weingold and Goldman families aren't as close as they used to be--and the resort itself is falling apart. When an offer comes through to buy the Golden Hotel, the families reach a tipping point. Can they come together to save their beloved sanctuary, or will the uncovering of secrets and lies, family drama, and powerful generational conflicts thwart any possible resolutions for the two clans?
I had hoped this book would be Dirty Dancing meets "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," and the extensive reminiscing about the hotel's heyday years is really fun. The vivid setting is as essential to the book as a main character, and references to real-life celebrities and details of midcentury life are a highlight.
But the book's present pales in comparison to the golden years of the past, and current events begin to feel dreary—hotel conditions are dusty, broken, dated, and dirty; and various disappointing behaviors are brought to light and shake the foundations of the families and of their treasured collective memories. I wanted to feel entrenched in the glory days of that era, but the high points of the hotel are over long before the reader enters the story.
Positive, exciting, ambitious ideas are floated for revamping the hotel, but they seem financially impossible. In good news, the hotel crisis seems poised to bring together the families and the younger generations despite the ways in which the family's various hopes are dashed.
There felt like significant summary toward the end of the book, with abrupt point of view changes and brief scenes with multiple shifts that kept me from feeling as invested as I might have.
This is a summer read that makes you feel like you’re in safe hands, and you can be confident that nothing here will go seriously awry. Last Summer at the Golden Hotel offers conveniently neat wrap-ups to most of its complications.
There's interesting, creative reimagining at the end that I enjoyed.
I received a prepublication digital edition of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group.
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Friedland is also the author of The Floating Feldmans and other titles.
The author started with the Catskills as her setting and said that the characters and story came to her naturally from there. The setting does feel as essential as a character within the story.