Imperial Hotel by Diane Marina
American author, Diane Marina’s short story, “Imperial Hotel” is like the lesbian’s answer to Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook”. It is one gorgeous and classic love story set in New York City in 1948.
“Imperial Hotel” is told from the perspective of one of the lead characters, Joan Blackstone. She is an 18-year old, unmarried society girl and someone that readers will find it easy to connect with. Her mother arranges a meeting with the daughter of a friend. The name of the book also doubles as the meeting place and it was Blackstone’s mother’s intentionfor her daughter to make a new acquaintance (as this new girl could help Joan find a husband).
Lily Dandridge is the graceful and sensitive young lady who Blackstone will meet. She is a sweet, 17 year old who is engaged to a “wonderful” man named Andrew Smith. While the girls’ mothers had other hopes in mind, it seems that this chance meeting would make everyone’s livesa touch more complicated.
After the two girls meet they develop a deep friendship which then blossoms into a full-blown relationship. The pair spend lots of time together and are forced into an almost covert-like relationship in order to have this liaison and eventually get a room together at their initial meeting spot.
The two share a sensual experience at the hotel and this becomes a home away from home for them. They are unable to be open about their relationship because of societal attitudes and expectations at the time along with what religion dictates. If they are honest about things, this could mean that they will be greeted with disapproval or worse (and this is something that sadly continues to resonate to this day).
Dandridge believes she will become a social outcast and is forced to choose between a sham marriage and children or spending her life with the woman she loves. It is an emotional and heart-wrenching decision and Marina does an excellent job of capturing this in a nuanced way.
“The Imperial Hotel” is an engaging short story that could’ve been a little more detailed. But it is ultimately a fast-paced, lesbian romance novel that draws together the formative years of two inspiring young women. Marina’s prose is elegant and well-written and manages to capture this forbidden love story with a deft touch and gentle softness.