Sunday, May 7, 2017

Brighouse Hotel - Susan Pleydell

I think this is the third Pleydell I've read from Greyladies, it's making me think I really need to get the school based stories, despite that being a subject I don't find overly appealing.

'Brighouse Hotel' is the third of Pleydell's Scottish set books that Greyladies have re published (are there more?) and whilst I didn't love it quite as much as either 'The Glenvarroch Gathering' or 'The Road to the Harbour' it was still thoroughly enjoyable. 

Originally published in 1977 'Brighouse Hotel' reuses a character from 'The Glenvarroch Gathering', Pat McKechnie, now grown up and working as an estate manager. The Brighouse hotel sounds like a superior sort of hangout for climbers, is also the Mountain rescue centre, and is on Pat's turf. When he discovers that Clunie Ritchie, a girl he always used to fight with when they were younger is there as receptionist he decides to take some holiday, climb a bit, and get to know her again. 

Clunie has turned up in Glen Torren (fictional but obviously west coast Scotland) after a dinner with an ex boyfriend, a very successful climber called Keith Finlay, reminds her how much she misses a place where her family used to spend every summer. There's a temp job at the Brighouse hotel and she takes it, only to find that another ex boyfriend, Malcolm Graham is still there, preparing to join Keith on an expedition to the Hindu Kush, and still interested in Clunie. 

It's a gentle sort of book, Clunie has unresolved feelings about Keith, and half formed not very serious intentions regarding Malcolm. A bit of drama is provided by a folk singer, Davina, who has family connections in Glen Torren too, and who Clunie has met in London. Davina upsets everyone in Glen Torren, apart from Clunie, when she manages to poach both Kieth and Malcolm. It may be the 1970's but Glen Torren does not care for permissiveness- it's a long way from London. 

It's obvious from the beginning that Pat and Clunie will end up together, but I liked the way that Pleydell explores the significance of their backgrounds. This is partly a class thing, both might be described as upper middle class, but it's the similarity of experience, manners, and outlook that really matters. It encompasses all sorts of unspoken but understood things between them. Things that Clunie doesn't share with the more parochial Malcolm for example. Davina doesn't share them either, her outlook is altogether more careless and bohemian, and she has a total lack of either patience with, or sympathy for, life in Glen Torren. 

The rest of the drama centres around the work of the Mountain rescue team, and the very real dangers involved in climbing. It's good to see them get their due here. 

As with the earlier books, I find reading Pleydell a real treat. It's easy going but with enough substance to not feel throw away, there are themes worth exploring here, as well as some keen observations. Using the Mountain rescue service to provide the life and death thriller element to the plot is effective - these people really do go out and risk their lives to save others, waiting for news really is harrowing, and it happens all the time. 

I am so pleased this book is available. 


  1. I love Susan Pleydell's books -- all of them! And the school books (which you've had missed feelings about) are really well done. The books are very hard to find, and often expensive. They are worth every penny.

  2. She's very good in a quite way. I've ordered one of the school books and will get the next one soon. A school setting isn't one that instantly appeals to me (no special reason, it just doesn't) but I don't doubt that I'll enjoy these ones.