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The White Hotel [Hardcover]

D. M. Thomas
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time has changed this book Dec 13 2008
By R
I first read DM Thomas's novel The White Hotel when it was published in the early 80s. I loved it but found it extremely disturbing. This week, after 27 years, I read it again. My second reading was profoundly different from the first. It was still rewarding and disturbing. I cried pretty steadily for the last hour of reading and a while after. But the world has changed so much in 27 years that it's a different book.

The White Hotel (don't read on if you don't want to know what happens) is about several things, but is essentially about Freud's article Beyond the Pleasure Principle, in which he posits that humans are motivated by the life instinct (creativity, harmony, sexual connection, reproduction, and self-preservation) and the death instinct (destruction, repetition, aggression, compulsion, and self-destruction) - by sex and death.

In the novel, the historical Freud is helping a young woman who has debilitating pain that doctors think is psychosomatic. As part of her treatment she writes Freud a poem, followed by a narrative explaining the events in the poem, in which she describes a passionate tryst she has in a hotel in the Alps (which she calls the White Hotel) with a man she identifies as Freud's son. She has never met Freud's son. In this fantasy, while the lovers have sex other guests are killed in all sorts of horrific ways. Bodies fall outside their window.

The poem is meant to be shocking: it's obscene, erotic, sometimes gross, and jarringly personal in the way she keeps referring to her lover as "your son". When I read the book in 1981, the sex section at the beginning of the story balanced the shocking death scene at the end. However, in the intervening 27 years our measure of what is sexually shocking has changed markedly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The White Hot Hit of the 80's April 20 2001
First of all, I will confess that I have only read this book once, and just finished it moments ago. I had heard that you weren't well read in the 80's unless you had read this book, so I picked it up at a used bookstore expecting a great read. This novel seems to be a myriad of subplots on the one hand, and a story told over and over, chapter after chapter, on the other. The first two or three "chapters" are interesting in a fairy tale sort of way, however, it seems that there is no plot in sight. The latter half of the book is quite confusing at first. At the start of every chapter it is unclear who the author is writing about. He also changes the name of the heroine, which is fine, but he chooses to confuse you first. I greatly agree with the reviewer above who says that the last chapter is an unneccessary add on. Throughout the entire book there (again) is no plot insight until the last two chapters, where the book is very loosely tied together. Basically, as is written above, the first three quarters of the book are an individual account of pyscoanalysis told through different characters, which was intriging on it's own. The last two chapters are a look inside the holocaust through the eyes of the characters involved. As seperate books, all of these chapters would have made a great series about the main character (if expounded on), but as one book, it is all over the place. I will say that I did understand the undertones that the reviewers above mention, however I still find the book to be loosely put together. In a week or two, I may read it again, and who knows? Maybe I will have a better opinion of this book.
One other thing, before I go, is that I think that the book is the author's self exploration into his own neurosis. I think he may have had an Oedipus complex. He is quite obsessed with the mother child bond.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quarter of a million White Hotels in Babi Yar Nov. 24 2000
A demandingly-structured work whose parts I didn't connect until the second or third time I read it. Frau Anna G. is treated by Freud for hysterical pains in her womb and breast; Freud assumes all this arises from incidents in her childhood and from her repressed sexuality. A point he does not pick up is that Anna G has second sight. As the story unfolds, we discover that her pains are indeed the expression of pain, but pain arising from events in her future.
I read The White Hotel in '82, the paper back emblazoned with the promise "soon to be a major film". 18 years on I gather that major film is finally in hand, again. Frankly I'd say this book was unfilmable. Is it genius? Maybe, if genius can be a one-off occurrence. D. M. Thomas' other fiction (mostly out of print now) is distinctly second-rate compared to this, the only work in which his faux-naif narrative style works properly.
That said, the depiction of Anna G as a symbol for Europe literally buried by barbarism is superbly achieved, and 18 years on I'm still reading it; if this isn't brilliance then it's not far off. Profound, disturbing, extravagantly sexual.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, yet Beautiful... Feb. 28 2001
This novel on the surface seems to be a shocking exploitation of human sexuality and historical violence. However, the reader takes more away from this novel than an uncomfortable silence; this book beautifully weaves Virgin-Christ and Freudian imagery into a deeply introspective look into the mind -- the place where desires, memories, and even the capacity for the future lay. The heroine, Lisa Ergman, is treated by Freud and is the basis for his notorious "Anna G." case study. Thomas delves more deeply into this woman's life, illuminating the discrepancies and the events which lead up to her debilitating condition. Then he ties her suffering in the mind into the suffering of all humanity in the Holocaust. This is a book from which the more concerned and deeper reader can take away a valuable lesson in the human roots of psychoanalysis and the inner workings of humanity -- the torture and ecstasy from within and without. "The White Hotel" raises serious concerns about the validity of our own memories and the value of dissecting it. I would have given it five stars, but the last section of the novel seems tacked on and inappropriate.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most beautiful books ever penned
Whne I was first asked to read this book, I loathed the task of it. But from the moment you begin to read it, Tjomas sucks you in with the incrediby imagery he presents. Read more
Published on May 15 2002 by E. R. Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written
I had a warning before reading this book, it was that nothing would ever seem the same and my awareness of my own femimine sexuality would escalate. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars a difficult work on all fronts
As an astute reader will notice, opinions vary greatly about this book
from those who feel it's the greatest 20th century novel to those... Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2000 by M. H. Bayliss
1.0 out of 5 stars Exploitative
D.M. Thomas' term for the blend of the real and the imagined in The White Hotel is "myth," by which he means "a poetic, dramatic expression of hidden truth. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars If Schlienk Could Write this Well and Oprah had Reviewed it
I could throw around superlatives and they would not have much impact. Too many reviews are written about mediocre books that one would think them, from the reviewers reaction,... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2000 by Bruce Kendall
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favorites
This is the kind of book you need to read twice, at least. The second time I read it was when I realized that the long, surrealistic dream-poem in the first part was actually a... Read more
Published on March 2 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars book never forgotten
I read this book when I was a teenager and has stuck in my mind since. It is very profound and in reading it again, now that I understand it a little better, warrants a space on... Read more
Published on Feb. 29 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Shows Great Talent, Should Publish More Works
I found The White Hotel to be a stunning, amazing piece of work. Never in my life have I read a book with such depth and fascinating complexity. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 1999 by Tarums
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer poetry.
A porthole into the soul. A surreal vision of life; engulfing a journey into the tormented soul of a single woman along with a journey into the horrors of humanity at its darkest... Read more
Published on Nov. 20 1999 by Gary Kshepitzki (
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