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It reads like the monologue of an angry, exhausted friend, sitting across the kitchen table from you, telling you, since you haven't asked, what looking after poor, mad Nicola was like in gritty detail.

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She's a woman of penetrating intelligence, this friend of yours, plain-spoken and not given to lyrical effusions at least on this occasion. Her speech is punchy because it's almost all subject-verb-predicate - "I put it down I grabbed her hands I said She tried" - making you feel she's telling the truth. It's a performance, of course - you know that.

Shaped, rehearsed and dotted with lines she knows will cut you to the quick, such as, "The station was a seven-minute walk from my house, twenty if you had cancer. It's easy to feel sympathy for Nicola as she assures Helen with her ghastly rictus of false cheer and grotesquely rounded vowels that, after one more dose of intravenous vitamins or essence of cabbage juice, "I'll have the damn thing on the run. Nor should she have felt obliged to.

Reporters on the front line generally don't. For empathy you need interiority.

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Nicola is an unforgettable character, precisely because of the lack of interiority. All we're shown is surfaces - her stagy accent, her grande dame affectations, her gutsiness, her warmth, her imperiousness "sweetened by a confidential note". In some ways she's memorable in the same way as certain fairly shallow Fauve and other post-impressionist canvases are memorable - a Dufy seascape, for instance, or a van Dongen portrait. As Gauguin famously said to one of the young artists in his group: "These trees are yellow, so put in yellow.

This shadow is rather blue, so paint it with pure ultramarine.

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These red leaves? Make them vermilion. It told us about how one man saw the trees. The Spare Room tells us what it feels like to be Helen, not Nicola. And there's nothing wrong with that. The drama of being Helen, a suburban grandmother turned for three weeks into her demanding friend's palliative-care nurse as well as cook, washerwoman, chauffeur, protector and counsellor , is paced by her transformation into the "punitive Mother". But Helen doesn't want to be that kind of mother.

She wants to be the embodiment of loving kindness, like her own mother, who would "spread the clean sheet across my bed" after one of her "bilious attacks", "stretch it flat and tuck in its corners, making it nice again for the disgusting, squalid creature I had become". But she can't.

The Spare Room

The bad faith from Nicola's dotty belief in her quacks men, of course and Helen's acquiescence in it poisons the very air in Helen's house. There are no grand themes, in the orchestral sense, coursing through this short book. In Madame Bovary there's the powerlessness of women, in Death in Venice decadence and mortality, but here it's more a matter of subjects and leitmotifs, among them death. Helen doesn't like death "being in my house", "pushing new life away with terrible force". It's a sensation that the visits of her young granddaughter, who ducks in through a hole in the fence from next door, give stark, if brief, form to, but there is no meditation on death.

All the same, there are the rumblings of a theme or two beneath the women's sometimes heartbreaking exchanges.

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For example, Garner obviously wants to say her piece about charlatans preying on the gullible and getting away with it, and she does so with a nicely judged savagery we can all enjoy. See what travelers are saying:. Selected filters. Updating list Reviewed November 27, Great fun for a one off! Date of visit: May Thank sophwall Reviewed November 13, Just a drink. Date of visit: October Thank Redfers. Reviewed November 11, via mobile Cozy little speakeasy feel. Date of visit: November Thank Curious Mitchell B.

Reviewed June 4, Gorgeous room, indifferent service. Thank Mitchell B. Reviewed April 13, Fore adults only.

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Date of visit: April Reviewed March 31, Cute place. Date of visit: March Thank toadsoup. Reviewed March 9, Cool Spot. Thank MaryEhret. Reviewed December 15, Great night out. Date of visit: July Thank ny Tiffany B. Reviewed December 6, Doesn't Disappoint. Thank Tiffany B. Reviewed October 15, The great escape. Date of visit: August Thank hollywoodhouston. View more reviews.

A Visit From Death

Previous Next 1 2 3 4 5 6. Hollywood undoubtedly conjures up images of movie stars and high-end lifestyles, and to this day, tourists flock here from around the world to see the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre and to catch a glimpse of the famed Hollywood sign up close. Celebrity impersonators and crowds give these areas the feeling of an amusement park while many clubs and hotels fill up around the weekends for late-night Nearby Hotels See all nearby hotels.

Nearby Restaurants See all 12, nearby restaurants. Nearby Attractions See all 2, nearby attractions. See all nearby hotels See all 12, nearby restaurants See all 2, nearby attractions. Submit Cancel. Is this an ok place to go with teenagers or is it strictly a bar?