One good turn deserves another. Jesse Gilmour, son of novelist David Gilmour, was the subject of his father’s best-selling 2007 memoir, The Film Club. Now he has come forth with his own book, a novella that offers a drug-fuelled, pyromaniacal rumination on the complex relationships between young men and their dads.
Indeed, the setting of fires is a good metaphor by which to frame the story of Hayden, who battles to control his various vices. Yes, he suffers from pyromania, and has done jail time for it. Yes, he is addicted to opioids and has a less-than-healthy relationship with a drug dealer named Damon. Yes, he finds himself in and out of an alluring, destructive relationship with a girl named Samantha. But the real thrust of Hayden’s dream-like narrative involves his relationship to his suicidal father, a middle-aged man who has found artistic success late in life.
The Green Hotel stumbles a bit in its first 30 to 35 pages as Gilmour wrestles to gain control of his multiple narrative threads. There is a certain lack of care to the beginning of this short book, but the novella soon finds its legs as Gilmour masters his story’s true rhythm: the author has a preternatural ability to move back and forth through time, switching from flashback to present day and back again with an effortless, hypnotic cadence. The effect is stirring, as Gilmour creates strangely captivating emotional resonances that stay with us from one passage to the next. Readers will be amazed by how much narrative torque can derive from such a fragmentary structure.
By the end, we’re more than willing to overlook the hero worship that punctuates the book’s closing scenes and see the story for what it really is: a touching and devastating portrait of a father who wants to sink into oblivion, and the son who must find the strength to let him do just that.