This devastating tale of love and war is “in Graham Greene territory . . . A solid novel on morality in our not-quite-postcolonial world” (The Globe and Mail, Toronto).
A doctor and a nurse, Paris and Helen, are doing humanitarian work in a nation on the brink of civil war. They have also fallen in love with each other—and Helen is pregnant with their child.
Then, a confrontation breaks out and they are swept up by rebel forces and separated. One is imprisoned while the other escapes. In The Colonial Hotel—which recasts a classic story of ancient Greece into a modern setting—we learn of their fates, in a brutally powerful story of family, forgiveness, and identity.
“An exploration of love and grief, the power of storytelling, the pains of parenthood and uncomfortable truths . . . Bennett has cleverly and sensitively described the many types of love tested by war . . . Rewarding and intensely moving . . . Devastatingly beautiful.” —National Post
In Bennett's (Entitlement) third novel, humanitarian volunteers in an unnamed nation on the brink of civil war, Paris and Helen are lovers. When war comes, pregnant Helen is able to escape; the unfortunate Paris is captured and imprisoned by the Colonel, who appears to view the white doctor as a pet as well as a valuable hostage or physician. Paris is dragged across a nation torn by war towards a fate as uncertain as it seems likely to be unpleasant, but even in a land bent on self-destruction the possibility of unexpected love exists. The author may be aiming at universal themes, but the decision to leave the setting unidentified is problematic. The work appears to be the platonic ideal of colonialist westerners writing about far off lands. The inhabitants of this unnamed country are dark-skinned; independence and freedom from Europeans has brought only decline and calamity, the factions are given iconic, uninformative names, and if there are reasons for the conflict, the reader will never learn them. Although the author has borrowed names from the Iliad, this is not a classic that will withstand the millennia as blind Homer's work has; it borders on accidental parody.