Customer Reviews


22 Reviews
5 star:
 (16)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time has changed this book
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...
Published on Dec 13 2008 by R

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The White Hot Hit of the 80's
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...
Published on April 20 2001 by Jinny McCormick


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time has changed this book, Dec 13 2008
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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. Now the sex can't provide that ballast, and the brutal violence at the end of the book doesn't fit as well - it might almost, to a first-time reader, feel a little tacked-on.

The story could be read as a novelization (and hence sort of proof) of Freud's theory of sex and death as the two great motivating forces. It's also a repudiation of Freud, as in the story Freud has let the young woman read his papers, and then she creates a fantasy that perfectly proves his theory. But also, in the novel the character Freud believes in clairvoyance, by which he means the ability to read minds and see into the future. (I don't know if the real Freud believed this, but he probably did, given Thomas's scholarship.) Given that Freud believes that, all his explanations for his patients' problems are turned on their heads, because he was treating mainly young Jewish women 30 years before the Holocaust, which would profoundly affect all of them: if they had any clairvoyance at all, it surely would explain their hysteria.

At the end of the story our heroine is killed, along with thousands of others, by German troops at Babi Yar. Thomas was criticized for lifting some of the description of the massacre directly from the text of a survivor (although he credits him on the copyright page), but I thought it was appropriate. Certain things are so horrific that they shouldn't be fictionalized. Thomas' handling of this portion of the book is extraordinarily sensitive.

The book has a coda in which all the characters (Jewish or not) are in heaven, which takes the form of Palestine. I don't see how the book could exist without this coda. It's like Thomas is taking the reader by the hand and leading us to the end of the experience, helping us cope, reminding us that although many died, life continued.

In one sense, things feel a little over-explained in the book: explanations are a bit too pat. I think Thomas was trying to write for a wide audience that wouldn't necessarily be able to fill in gaps. But I also feel after my second reading that I need to read it many more times. I don't understand the purpose of the various perspectives (different narrators and the disturbing second case in "your son") or the reason the plot unfolds as it does, or why our heroine spends so much time on trains.

Not that you need to understand any of the mechanics of the novel to feel the emotional impact. In an ironic twist, the book leaves me thinking about Freud's rival Jung. The novel has added to our collective unconscious this image of a large, stately hotel in the mountains, a place we might unexpectedly find ourselves while on a journey somewhere else. If it hadn't been for the coda I might have thought of the White Hotel as heaven, but instead I see it as our inner life (maybe the id). The lulling sound and motion of a train might hypnotize us into a visit to the White Hotel, deep in our psyche, where every character is an aspect of ourselves and events show us - well, that's the mystery.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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
By 
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most beautiful books ever penned, May 15 2002
By 
E. R. Butler (Eugene, OR) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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. I could NOT put the book down. I stayed up all nihgt reading it, fascinated by the poetry, the Freud-esq themes, dreamscapes, and WWII tie-ins. There are two parts to the novel, which build on each other and go from completely abstract peoprty to a lucid recount of the horrors of concentration camps. Read this book. It will move you beyond words.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, yet Beautiful..., Feb. 28 2001
By 
Alicia Lebar (Aliso Viejo, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books ever written, Oct. 20 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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. Well he was right on both parts.
This book is so beautiful and so hard to explain. It's one story told in three ways: Poetic, symbolic and narrative. Some people do find it confusing, but it is absolutely necessary to re-read the book many times, only then will you see how each part is intertwined with the other, how the devastating end is actually told in each of the first two parts, told in those different ways. It makes you look at yourself in different ways too.
I read this book on holiday (in Israel!). I didn't put it down, reading it from cover to cover 8 times. I dreamt the story for many nights over the next two months. My heart and soul soar just thinking about it. I changed after reading this book. If you understand it, if you let your soul be touched by it, you will change too. Luxuriate in its warmth, and wrap yourself in its imaginary.
Finally, The White Hotel is one of only a handful of books I could not imagine living without.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars a difficult work on all fronts, Oct. 19 2000
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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...who feel it's an exploitative piece of junk.
After having read the book and most of the reviews below, I'm
undecided. I agree ... about the nature of
the Babi Yar narrative, yet on the other hand I found it one of the
most riveting Holocaust scenes I've ever read. There's no doubt that
it has a complex narrative structure and strong writing throughout --
it's still hard to judge it for its overall merit. The experience of
reading the first part ... reminds
me of the experience of reading the first section of Faulkner's The
Sound and the Fury -- in the latter example, once you realize that
it's written from the perspective of a 33 year old retarded boy, you
can start to piece together what's happening. The opening poem has
much of that same power but we don't find out the meaning until much
later. I liked the Freudian analysis and exchange. For those who
have read Freud's actual case studies, the analysis will seem quite
authentic and on target. No matter what you ultimately think of the
novel, you have to appreciate its complexity and ambition. I tend to
come out on the side of great novel. Parts of it are very disurbing,
but fitting to the subject matter. Certainly worth reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars If Schlienk Could Write this Well and Oprah had Reviewed it, Sept. 27 2000
By 
Bruce Kendall "BEK" (Southern Pines, NC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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, modern masterpieces. "Flawlessly-rendered scenes of incomparably lyrical, powerful, acute, seamless, ineffable, gorgeous, unassailable, tender, dynamic, lush, titillating, cerebral, divine, a libidinous, self-revelatory paean to the inexpressible in art and life that packs an emotional wallop!," or some such phrase.
Sometimes a person just has to come right out and say "This one grabbed me by the rear," and let it go at that. This is a book that really has to be experienced first-hand. My only word of advice is not to give up on the book too soon. It's absolutely unclear in the first 40 or 50 pages where Thomas is taking you and he doesn't present too promising a train ride at that stage. Settle in for the journey. Look out the window and watch as the landscape starts becoming more recognizable. The landmarks with which you thought you were earlier familiar, start revealing themselves in entirely new patterns. For this is a novel about revelation, more than anything else. Readers just have to trust that "all will be revealed" by novel's end, and it is, magnificently.
Thomas performs a near-miraculous feat in this novel. Reading The White Hotel is akin to looking through a an extremely high-powered telescope and what at first looks likes fuzzy, indiscreet blurs, become unbelievably colorful and complex nebulae and galaxies as the instrument's focus is adjusted. The book begins with a long poem, full of erotic imagery and near-incoherent description, that we are startled to learn is written by a woman. Following this is a prose version of the story that we learn is written by a young woman who is a semi-successful Opera-singer who comes to Sigmund Freud for analysis as she suffers from acute psychosomatic pains in her left breast and her womb. She will become the Frau Anna G. of Freud's famous case-study (Freud's "Wolfman" also appears as a peripheral character in the novel). Thomas lets us in on Freud's analysis, as well as his ambiguous feelings towards his patient. At several stages, Freud is ready to throw up his hands and tell her that he won't continue his treatment as he feels she is not forthcoming enough to make any real progress. He always relents, however, because he senses that "Lisa" (the Opera-singers real name) has enough redeeming attributes to warrant his time.
As the novel progresses, we learn more and more about Lisa's past and the seminal childhood incident (occurring when she is 3-years-old and vacationing with her parents in Odessa) that estranged her from her mother, and more particularly, from her father. This will be the central motif of the novel as well as Lisa's Cassandra-like ability to see the future through her dreams and her imaginative powers. If this begins to strike you as psychological clap-trap, rest assured it isn't. The novel at no point devolves into psycho-babble or pretentiousness. Everything in the novel, we come to learn, is there for a reason. There is absolutely nothing amateurish about the master-plan and the sublime architecture that Thomas erects (no Freudian pun intended). This is as carefully-constructed a novel as anything I've ever read.
I am certainly not going to spoil the read for anyone by giving away the novel's ending, but suffice it to say that it's as powerful as anything-written in the past 30 years, at minimum. The only drawback to this book is that I didn't give it enough of a chance on first-encounter. Hopefully, that won't be the case with those reading this review.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favorites, March 2 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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 premonition of horrific events to come. Lisa is haunted by this premonition her entire life, seeking psychiatric therapy to explain it. She is also haunted by mysterious "hysterical" pains in the parts of her body that, years later, will be brutalized. I love touches in the poem like the orange trees falling into the lake and vanishing -- a premonition of her brief hope of her and Kolya going to Israel - a hope which is also defeated. Faced with the horrifying premonition of the Holocaust, Lisa's psyche chooses to change the horror into something beautiful and mysterious -- the White Hotel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars book never forgotten, Feb. 29 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The White Hotel (Paperback)
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 my bookshelf with the rest of my favorites. Other reviews here have certainly captured the essence, very powerful, a must read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

White Hotel
White Hotel by D. M. Thomas (Mass Market Paperback - March 1982)
Used & New from: CDN$ 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews