About the book
Sold toDenmark: Cicero/Gyldendal, Estonia: Varrak, Finland: WSOY, Germany: Blanvalet, Italy: Editrice Nord, Netherlands: Luitingh-Sijthoff, Norway: Aschehoug, Romania: Humanitas Fiction, Spain: Penguin Random House
1901. Stockholm is a city in flux. While the rich dream of elaborate buildings and improved sanitation, the poor dream of fewer rats and feeding their families on a fair wage.
Our story begins on a cold December night. The Grand Hôtel, the perfectly-polished jewel in Stockholm’s crown that’s aptly located across the water from King Oscar II’s Royal Palace, is waiting to welcome the first Nobel Laureates to the first Nobel Banquet. But behind the glittering façade, pressed liveries and impeccably-cooked grouse, the Grand Hôtel’s eminent Board of Directors harbour a secret: this spectacular hotel is running out of cash.
Mrs Wilhelmina Skogh, the canny proprietress of a string of successful hotels along a key Swedish railway track, believes in hard work, tough discipline and excellent service. She also believes in flowers, fruit and vegetables. And in the importance of the Grand Hôtel to Stockholm’s global standing. Feared and revered in equal measures by her staff, is Mrs Skogh the right woman to get the Grand Hôtel back on its own track?
Ottilia Ekman, Head Waiter at one of Mrs Skogh’s rural establishments, believes she is. Loyal Ottilia also believes in looking on the bright side and learning as much as possible about the hotel industry from the very best. Is there a place for her at the Grand Hôtel, too?
Younger sister Torun Ekman believes in all women — and in their emancipation. Once she’s worked out how to support Stockholm’s suffrage movement, her lame leg won’t hold her back.
Former foster child and chambermaid Karolina Nilsson wonders why a mother would abandon her. And what it might be like to be loved. God forbid she is ever dismissed. The Grand Hôtel is the only place she can call home. Fellow chambermaids Beda Johansson and Märta Eriksson stick up for each other and occasionally for Karolina. They would love to believe in all women. If only someone else showed belief in them first.
Head Housekeeper Margareta Andersson does try to believe in her girls. Belief in herself has been beaten out of her by the man of her own choosing.
Lady-in-waiting Elisabet Silfverstjerna lost her bed at the Palace when she bore the King’s child. For the past sixteen years she’s lived at the Grand Hôtel and is perturbed by the misery in the city that she sees from her arched window. She also pines for the daughter His Majesty made her give up. At least they are now both under the same roof. But as long as the King lives, that little secret must be safely kept.
Set against the backstairs ongoings in a luxury establishment, these eight women forge friendships. But can they also make differences to their own lives while serving the rich and celebrated, and safeguarding the future of the Grand Hôtel?
The Phenomenal Women of the Grand Hôtel spans nine years and is based on the fascinating history of Wilhelmina Skogh and Stockholm’s world-renowned Grand Hôtel.