Books by hoteliers can generally be expected to be discrete. The profession, like that of priests or doctors, demands it. This history of Kit Chapman's remarkable family background, barely touches on his professional experience. Instead, it is a searing account of the author's painful, often heart-rending relationship with his selfish and dominating mother, his much loved and highly gifted brother and his greatly respected father. It goes further back to describe the glittering and ultimately tragic career of his grandfather, Henry Pruger, which, at its height, saw him managing, with conspicupus showmanship, the Savoy Hotel in London and, later, the Savoy-Carleton Hotel in Bratislava.
The book ranges from the Chapman retreat on an Aegian island (the author's mother was Greek), via the stately Castle Hotel in Taunton,(the heart of the Chapman family business now for 60 years, to New York, where Kit's brother Gerald died of AIDS in 1987, in the midst of a notable career in the theatre. It concludes, after a story of turbulence and, one might almost say, horror, on a note of optimism and calm, as Chapman unfettered by the restraints, which dogged him for so long, settles down with his wife, Louise, to contemplate, as well as the challenge of his business, and perhaps of further books to write, a gentler future and the pleasures of watching the progress of his children and grandchildren.
It is written with an astonishing narrative skill, which makes you feel that your are reading a novel, except that you never for a moment forget the reality of what is before you, the sincerity and the courage with which the book is written. I can think of no better test for a psychologist, or any one else for that matter, interested in the tensions of family life, the challenge of running a family business, the pain engendered by narrow-mindedness and self-deceit, and the empowering qualities of love, which triumphs in the end, just.