The Picador Book Club: Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson

29 June 2015

We spend all our time talking about the books we love in the office, and we want to share our enthusiasm. What better way than with our very own book club? Each month there'll be twenty copies of a brand new paperback up for grabs. Whether you read it alone or with your own book club, we'd love to hear how you get on via @picadorbooks Twitter. First up is the brilliant Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson.

Howard York – self-made man and founder of London's extraordinary Hotel Alpha – is one of those people who makes you feel that anything is possible. He is idolized by his blind adopted son, Chas, and Graham, the inimitable concierge, whose lives revolve around the Alpha. But when two mysterious disappearances raise questions that no one seems willing to answer, Chas and Graham must ask themselves whether Howard's vision of the perfect hotel has been built on secrets as well as dreams...

Fill in the form below by midday on Friday, 3 July 2015 to be in with a chance of winning one of twenty copies.

You must be a UK resident aged 18 or over to enter. Read the full terms and conditions.

This competition has now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered. 

Reading group questions for Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson, compiled by Francesca Main, Editorial Director at Picador

1. The Hotel Alpha is full of secrets. Which made the biggest impression on you and why?

2. How would you describe the sense of place in Hotel Alpha, and would you say the hotel becomes a character in its own right?

3. Did your attitude to the characters remain consistent throughout the novel, or did your loyalties shift as you read? Which character provoked the strongest reaction from you?

4. How did the author create Chas’s point of view, given that he is blind and unable to describe things visually? Did you find this effective?

5. ‘In Howard’s own opinion, luck was not a whimsical force which flitted in and out of lives. It was a commodity: something you could make or buy.’ To what extent do you agree with Howard’s view that we make our own luck?

6. How does meeting Kathleen affect Chas and his relationships with others? What did you make of their love story?

7. A pivotal theme of the novel is the rise of technology and the internet. In what ways does the digital revolution aid and thwart the characters?

8. ‘I have heard it said that adversity is the truest test of character, and that the greatest people turn disaster into opportunity.’ Graham is talking about Howard here, but is this also true of other characters? Who else turns adversity to their advantage, and did you find them stronger or weaker for it?

9. Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian as well as a novelist. Would you describe Hotel Alpha as a tragedy or a comedy? In what ways do you think being a stand-up comedian might influence Mark Watson’s writing?

10. ‘I had seen a great many odd sights in the Alpha. That man who broke the door of Room 25, and his wife who hurled her wedding ring up into the balconies; a demonstration of a chemical mixture which, injected into the body of a dead person, could preserve their organs for hundreds of years; the American astronaut who was first to walk on the Moon.’ Some of these incidents, and many more, appear in the one hundred extra stories that accompany the novel and can be found at www.hotelalphastories.com. Have you read any of these stories and, if not, do you plan to discover them now you’ve read the novel? What do you make of the author’s decision to continue the story of Hotel Alpha online and how might this affect the reader’s experience of the novel? 

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