Book Review: ‘The Paragon Hotel’ Is A Great Historical Novel

Set in 1921 the book looks at the plight of black people in Portland, Oregon and how they were segregated and treated like third class citizens. Alice James aka Nobody has escaped New York City with a couple of bullet wounds and is heading on a train across the country to Portland, Oregon and a new life. A black porter names Max assists her and takes her to the Paragon Hotel in Portland. It’s the only all black hotel in the city. Alice who is white gets looks and is told she can’t stay here. Max gets the Doctor and she is patched up.

She becomes friendly with the people that run the place (and some of them are quite quirky) and learns what life is like for them. She posses as a reporter saying she is writing a story on the hotel. She also learns the KKK has recently come to town and black people are on alert.

When one of the children, who is a mulatto child, goes missing it’s feared the KKK has something to do with it. The search is on to find him. It leads to a lot secrets among the people she is living with now and becoming friends with being revealed and major twists coming to life.

The story goes between today and Alice’s childhood and growing up in Harlem and New York City. She had to deal with the mafia, crime and a lot of killings. Things no one should have to live through. We learn her whole backstory and how and why she had to flee the city.

The story is fascinating with lots of twists and turns you don’t see coming. It’s a fascinating look at the time, the people living there (both black and white), the KKK and the aftermath of women getting the vote. The story starts off strong and never lets up. I couldn’t put it down right up to the climatic reveal and ending. A truly enjoyable story by author Lyndsay Faye.

You can pick it up in stores on Tuesday, January 8th from Putnam.

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