The Hotel – BBC Sounds

Over the past 15 weeks, I’ve been transfixed by this series of 15-minute readings on Radio 4: The Hotel by Daisy Johnson. Unlike most Radio 4 readings, the producers employed a variety of different voice actors, to tell short stories from different periods of the titular Hotel’s history, from before it was built to its end. The diverse range of familiar and unfamiliar women’s voices include Nicola Walker, Maxine Peake, Rebecca Root, Adjoa Andoh, and Juliet Stevenson. As such, each episode has a slightly different tone, although the creepy atmosphere is maintained with superb sound design.

I’ve not read Daisy Johnson, but her book Everything Under was shortlisted for the Booker prize (which for me is more off-putting than encouraging). She also wrote Fen, which seems like it might be a similar collection of disturbing short stories in a similar setting to The Hotel. I must say, she seems to be one of those authors where the blurb doesn’t give you any idea of what’s inside. The overall impression is gothic. Her most recent book is Sisters, which again seems to be a gothic tale set in a creepy house. Anyway, I’m intrigued enough to check some of these out, although what I’d really like to do is to read all the Hotel stories for myself.

The BBC don’t give you much information as to how the series was put together, beyond the name of the producer (Justine Wilett), the author and the readers. Did the producer also do the sound design? Well done, if so.

The only complaint I have about The Hotel is with regards to the listener. On occasion, and for various reasons, I found it difficult to concentrate on a particular episode, missed some details, lost track. There’s nothing stopping me from listening again, of course, but one of the reasons I’d like to read them for myself is that there’s also nothing stopping me from lapses in concentration and focus, particularly at the moment, when work concerns keep intruding.

They’re all available now, so you can binge, although there was a certain pleasure in the slow release over so many weeks. Even in normal times, the BBC’s 15 minute readings tend to be daily rather than weekly, so they did something different with The Hotel. It’s a good listen, with many spine-tingling moments, and excellent work from all involved.

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