Heikki Hietala – Tulagi Hotel

Cover of Tulagi HotelToo many went that way, Doc. Too many went our way, too, screaming into the mike as they burned out of the sky, or just plain disappeared in a fireball.

War and its impact. That’s what ‘Tulagi Hotel‘ is about. Jack McGuire was a pilot in the Pacific in World War II. After the war, unable to bring himself to leave, he establishes a hotel on a island where he fought.

When his best friend’s widow shows up after the war, she opens up a Pandora’s box of memories. For a start, Jack didn’t know Don Wheeler was married. His fighter pilot friend had always been a womanizer, living life one day at a time. Kay wants to know how Don died, so Jack relives the last dogfight for her until Don’s plane nosedives into the tropical sea. Kay stays a few days and Jack fights a losing battle to stave off falling for her.

From there, it’s as if the top of Jack’s head is opened and memories are pulled out and examined. For me, the book reads like a succession of short stories held together with the underlying theme of Jack’s search for himself. The book tells tales from Jack’s childhood with his twin brother and stories from the war, some funny, some poignant, some a little eerie. We learn more about Kay and Don, as well, with chapters written from their point of view. The contrast between Don and Jack is very well drawn – different backgrounds, different motivations and different reactions. Through it all, the author’s knowledge of aircraft and the Pacific theatre of WW2 lends authenticity. The ending is satisfying and totally believable.

Sure, there are times when the reader might guess English isn’t the author’s native language and sometimes he hops from one point of view to another but these are minor flaws. If you’re looking for a fast-paced cliff-hanger this is not the book for you. But if you want to explore some of the deeper reaches of minds affected by war, if you want to dip in and out and maybe re-read sections, laugh a little, cry a little, you’ll find ‘Tulagi Hotel’ well worth the investment.

You can buy the book from the Book Depository, Amazon and other online book stores.