Leave any assumptions about Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel firmly in the foyer.
Bearded Badger Publishing’s debut publication is hilarious, tragic, and downright bizarre – all at the same time.
And for the most part, it works. I can’t remember the last time I laughed, cocked an eyebrow, and experienced such solemnity within a single page or two.
Author Drew Gummerson has created a truly unique piece of literature, though not without its issues.
What is Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel all about?
Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel places you (yes, you! More on that later) as a dish scrubber at the titular Flamingo Hotel.
It’s a novel written almost exclusively through a stream of consciousness, which makes for a manic and scatty narrative. This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s what makes Seven Nights such an interesting piece of literature.
Bitter and disappointed at not making more of your life, you take a job at the Flamingo Hotel, living out numerous fictional versions of your own life alongside a host of quirky guests and colleagues.
Think Alan Partridge meets Dostoevsky’s Letters from Underground. Strange mix, I know!
Over the course of your weekly stay, you’ll get to know more about the denizens of this bizarre hotel, whilst exploring your own troubled past and uncertain future. The reality of the present is constantly undermined by the main character’s reimagining of the past and fantasising of the future. It’s a heady cocktail of sex, drugs, shame, and regret.
In one scene, a seemingly outgoing, ‘good looking’ gentleman enters the lobby.
Loathing yourself, ‘you’ construct a fictional identity around this guest and, borne of jealousy, plan to spite them for this imagined slight. It turns out that the guest is nothing like this caricature. Plus, he’s actually considering suicide following a series of personal misfortunes.
This of course, is only realised after our main character has broken into the gentleman’s room with the sole intention of shitting in his bed as ‘revenge’.
There are also loads of weird fantasies… and for some reason, our main character is obsessed with ‘bums’ and ‘willies’.
Did I mention that Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel is a strange novel? It’s all a bit odd.
The crudeness is used for comic effect and, for the most part, it does work. Seven Nights got some serious laughs out of me on numerous occasions. It has that strange offbeat humour that a niche sitcom such as The Mighty Boosh has. Weird, but oddly compelling.
Other times, it is a bit much. If you’re squeamish or prefer to not read this sort of content, I’d probably steer clear.
The Genius of 2nd Person Narrative
Unlike most novels, which are typically written in 1st or 3rd person, Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel makes YOU the subject. This is one of the more fascinating aspects of the novel.
Not many authors opt for 2nd person; it’s notoriously tricky to pull off without grating or coming across as gimmicky. But when done effectively (See Camus’s The Fall), 2nd person narratives are an intoxicating, heady trip unlike anything else in literature.
Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel is far more compelling because of this choice of form.
Constantly being addressed by the narrative, the reader is drenched in the main character’s depraved existence over and over again. There’s something deliciously alienating about 2nd person – your own control as a reader is wrested away and placed in the hand of the author.
It’s great fun and I was impressed by how Drew Gummerson implemented this framework in the novel.
One issue with Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel struggles with, is repetition. As most chapters in fictional texts do, it follows a structure. The problem here is that the structure of a novel is quite well hidden from the reader.
In the case of Seven Nights, a chapter will take one the following forms:
Main character (MC) confronts a new situation > MC does something positive/succeeds > MC is actually fantasising and none of this actually happened.
MC confronts a new situation > MC fails/embarrasses himself > MC slips into a stream of consciousness fantasy, reimagining a future where they’re popular/sexually desirable/king of the world/etc.
Over time, this structure becomes nakedly apparent to the reader, breaking the immersion. It all becomes a little ‘one-note’. If this was a metafictional novel, with the 4th wall under repeated siege, this would make sense. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
It’s not a huge issue, and the the anecdotes and comedy moments remain fun to read. The formula just gets a bit repetitive over the course of the novel.
Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel is a solid read and if it’s a sign of things to come from Bearded Badger Publishing, they’re certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but with caveats.
Seven Nights is a unique piece of fiction, delightfully strange and quite amusing, but very crude. The squeamish need not apply.
On the other hand, it’s a decent book from a talented writer and an exciting new indie publisher. If you’re looking for a quirky, off-beat, psychedelic trip of a novel, then definitely check in to Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel.