Sea Dog Hotel was self-published late last year by Western Australian author Marlish Glorie. Don’t let the fact it was self-published put you off — this work has been professionally and thoroughly edited so it presents as if from a publishing house.
Anyone who has read Marlish’s writing knows she has a warm writing style and a quirky sense of humour — this novel exudes both.
The story begins with the arrival of the troubled Ruth and her daughter, Grace, in Nyacoppin — a remote town three hundred and sixty miles southeast of Perth, population eighty. Ruth has bought the Sea Dog Hotel, the only hotel in town, after spotting it on the internet.
Ruth, despite being the mother, is child-like, impulsive, and ‘jittery’. Since the death of her husband three years earlier, she’s flitted around Western Australia in search of happiness, never staying longer than a few months in one place.
Happiness could lose itself easily in a state with a land area of two-and-a-half million square kilometres. But there was her mother, the Burke and Wills of happiness, determined to find it even if it cost her life and Grace’s.
Grace, Ruth’s daughter, is resentful of her mother. Her mother has forgotten her twenty-first birthday, and Grace is tired of her instability, tired of her ‘new starts’, tired of being her mother’s carer.
She recalled how Ruth, a few days after her husband’s funeral, had put the house on the market, then, without a backward glance, had thrown the proceeds, confetti-like, over Western Australia.
The description of the hotel itself had me laughing, being decked out as a ‘maritime monument’ despite being in the desert, two hundred miles from coast.
The reader is also introduced to an eclectic bunch of characters, each with their own distinctive and likeable traits. Faith, the larger than life manager of the Sea Dog, cooks the books and isn’t always on the straight. Amy has her own demons but somehow manages to bond with Ruth more than Ruth’s own daughter can. Ray, Amy’s brother, owns the café and garage but spends his time alone. He, too, is troubled by the past. Ewen inherited a family farm he didn’t really want. And Letty, my favourite, the nurse-cum-doctor, likes a drink and carries a secret she doesn’t want the town to know.
It’s the characters that make this novel a stand-out. They’re quirky and odd, but nuggety and likeable. Marlish has not only managed to make each one distinctive, but also to give them something which enables the reader to bond with them all. We watch their relationships grow, learn their secrets, and each of them changes in some way as the story progresses. What’s more, I think it’s fair to say I’d never met characters quite like these before …
This is a thoroughly enjoyable, quirky novel about a troubled woman in search of happiness but who cannot forgive herself for the past. To top it off, the ending is very satisfying …
I can’t decide between Letty and Ray — there’s something endearing about both of them and their humility.
I loved this sentence about Letty:
‘Letty frowned, momentarily perturbed by Ruth’s sobriety. She usually chatted with the inebriated, people on the same wavelength as her.’
The ending, which I won’t go into as it will give it away …
‘At one-twenty-six that morning a miniature replica of him had slipped into the world. “My son,” he enunciated, still unable to believe that this foreign word was coming from his mouth.
“My son,” he repeated.’
‘Sea Dog Hotel‘, by Marlish Glorie, 2013. E-book available from Amazon $7.71.
This is my first book review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014