From the award-winning author of the acclaimed bestseller The Last Painting of Sara de Vos comes a radiant new novel tracing the intertwined fates of a silent film director and his muse. The Electric Hotel winds through the nascent days of cinema in Paris and Fort Lee, New Jersey – America’s first movie town – and the battlefields of Belgium during World War I. A sweeping work of historical fiction, it shimmers between past and present as it tells the story of the rise and fall of a prodigious film studio and one man’s doomed obsession with all that passes in front of the viewfinder.
For nearly half a century, Claude Ballard has been living at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. A French pioneer of silent films, who started out as a concession agent for the Lumiere brothers, the inventors of cinema, Claude now spends his days taking photographs of Sunset Boulevard. But when a film-history student comes to interview Claude about The Electric Hotel – the lost masterpiece that bankrupted him and ended the career of his muse, Sabine Montrose – the past comes surging back.
In his run-down hotel suite, the ravages of the past are waiting to be excavated: celluloid fragments and reels in desperate need of restoration, and Claude’s memories of the woman who inspired and beguiled him. The Electric Hotel is a portrait of a man entranced by the magic of movie-making, a luminous romance and a whirlwind trip through the heady, endlessly inventive days of early cinema.