The movie very much follows the plot of the novel. The main characters are there and they match up those in the movie very closely. There is more depth of characterization in the novel, more treatment of minor characters like hotel staff. I was fascinated by the book. It depicts the growing corruption and decay of Weimier Germany brilliantly. We learn more about the life of the aging ballerina played by Greta Garbo than we do in the movie.
Grand Hotel is a book I think anyone into Weimier Germany will enjoy. My guess is most potential bookreaders will have already the movie and will be delighted to see how closely the movie follows the book.
Vicki Baum (1888–1960) was born into an affluent Jewish family in Vienna. Her childhood was dominated by a depressed mother and an authoritarian, hypochondriac father, who discouraged her early forays into literature. She studied harp at the Vienna Academy for Music and the Performing Arts and left home at eighteen to marry Max Prels, a journalist under whose name her first short stories were published. In 1916, after the dissolution of her first marriage, she married the conductor Richard Lert and launched her literary career, eventually writing nearly a book a year while working as an editor at the German publishing house Ullstein. Her first major success came in 1920 with the publication of her second novel, Once in Vienna. She spent several months in New York and Hollywood during the making of the film adaptation of Grand Hotel—which starred Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford and went on to win the 1933 Oscar for Best Film—and, before Hitler’s rise to power, resettled in Los Angeles, where she continued to publish novels while also working as a screenwriter for Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Her memoir, It Was All Quite Different, was published posthumously.