Critical Evaluation (Masterplots: Revised Category Edition)
GRAND HOTEL is one of the most perfectly constructed popular novels in modern literature. Skillfully and with notable artistry, the author blends the various ingredients required in her story. She includes the mechanics of running a great cosmopolitan hotel in the Berlin of the 1920’s and integrates the subtle class differences which were so important in such an establishment. The guests of the hotel are presented briskly, with precise character sketches, and then put through their paces with professional skill. The author writes with a serviceable, plain style, unpretentious and entertaining, neither overly poetic nor condescending. Vicki Baum’s greatest gift was that of keeping a narrative moving, of simultaneously taking many stories forward and never sacrificing pace to detail. She nevertheless understood the value of knowing details and used them to breathe life into her setting and characters. Her craftsmanship is everywhere evident in GRAND HOTEL.
The characters of the novel are not always original, but they are often fascinating. The author seems to believe in her creations so intensely that she makes the reader believe in them, however improbable they might seem at first. It is impossible for the reader not to sympathize with Otto Kringelein, the little bookkeeper from Fredersdorf. The romantic and glamorous ballerina emerges almost as a tragic figure, as the Baron Gaigern becomes, by the end of the tale, a surprisingly noble one. In the milieu of postwar Berlin, corruption was commonplace, as evidenced in the character of Herr Generaldirektor Preysing, but Baum managed to collect in her story a number of worthy and admirable individuals, people imperfect but sympathetic perhaps because of their flaws. Although GRAND HOTEL is not of the highest order of fiction, it is a well-crafted and entertaining popular novel and probably will endure as such.