2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For me, his best book
I've read several Irving works, including THE WOLRD ACCORDING TO GARP and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, but this, for me is his truly great work. I think it goes without saying that Irving is one of the most talented writers to date; his narratives are strong and his work is almost always character drive, something I find in the novels of Jackson McCrae and Saul Bellow. Also,...
Published on July 13 2007 by D. Hansford
3.0 out of 5 stars In Closing
This is probably the last Irving book I'll review for a while because I've pretty much read them all until something new comes out. What I can tell you after reading 8 Irving novels, is that some are really good (Cider House Rules, World According to Garp), others are pretty bad (Prayer for Owen Meany, Fourth Hand), and still others are in between (Widow for One Year,...
Published on June 18 2003 by BJ Fraser
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For me, his best book,
I've read several Irving works, including THE WOLRD ACCORDING TO GARP and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, but this, for me is his truly great work. I think it goes without saying that Irving is one of the most talented writers to date; his narratives are strong and his work is almost always character drive, something I find in the novels of Jackson McCrae and Saul Bellow. Also, he somehow manages to show us the underside of humanity without us feeling violated. He manages this perfectly in HOTEL. With a little of everything from adolescent angst, to a bear, to the family's travails in various places, HOTEL is a myriad of fun, sadness, and a family saga that is like no other. As I said before, Irving's works are character driven, and of course you're going to find odd characters, just as you would in McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD (which is outstanding, by the way), or in the works of Palahniuk. But Irving gives his characters something no one else does, and it's a "can't quite put my finger on it" something that makes them so real, so alive, that when you finish the book, you're sad to have to close the pages. Now, there are some parts of the book that are REALLY going to turn some people off, such as the brother-sister thing that goes on. Frankly, I'm shocked more people haven't written about this, but somehow Irving pulls even this taboo topic off. One of the things I like about his books, and this one in particular, is the fact that he gives us the story, then steps back and lets us decide about the characters and what's happened. A sort of Ibsen approach to the text. In this way he takes the element of himself out of the story and all that's left is the narrative. While this is certainly not a new book, I highly recommend it, along with the novels BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and the ever popular THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, both which are very good and will keep you flipping the pages. Also anything else by Irving.
5.0 out of 5 stars He's da man,
First introduced to Irving via his WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and loving that, I decided to take on this novel. It just happened to be at the same time that our book club picked it--lucky me. Of the three books we read in the last month (the other two were "Bark of the Dogwood" and "Kite Runner") we liked Irving's work the best, probably because it was such a great blend of humor and sadness. This book has such a human element to it. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't speak for that, but the writing, my God, the writing alone is worth the price for this novel. There are a lot of metaphors in this book, as you'll find in all of Irving's works, and you can either see them for what they are or simply read the novel on an entertainment level. The family is led by Win Berry who is a dreamer. He's the driving force in the novel, and he doesn't shy away from telling what happens---sometimes you kind of wish he would----but it all works. Some may find the sexual scenes a bit much, but they're believable, as well as the part about the bear (don't want to give it away). I was really moved by this book, just as I was with the novels "World According to Garp" and "Bark of the Dogwood." I'd recommend this to anyone who likes to laugh . . . and cry.
4.0 out of 5 stars One rock steady writer,
This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Paperback)
Irving is one of those people who can't seem to miss the mark when it comes to good solid writing. I actually bought this book at a yard sale because I liked the cover and this is one time I can definitely judge a book by its cover! I fell in love with each and every member of the Berry family and even New England in the course of reading this incredible book. I laughed out loud, wiped tears from my eyes and smiled inwardly the whole time. The only other book that had this much impact on me was a collection of short stories by the author Jackson McCrae titled "The Children's Corner." I am looking forward to reading more of Irving's works. He is the most mature, sensitive and realistic writer I have ever encountered. I get bored easily with books. If a book doesn't grab me in the first 10 pages or so, I set it aside. I carried 'The Hotel New Hampshire' with me everywhere for 3 days until I finished it then felt like old friends had moved away. This Book is a journey well worth taking and I would recommend it to anyone who likes to travel through real peoples lives
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing,
After being very impressed with Owen Meaney, I am disappointed with Hotel New Hampshire. And the funny thing is, the same elements I loved about Owen Meaney are the reasons I barely finished Hotel.
I get tired of the constant narrative foreshadowing - "it wasn't the last time Lilly would save us all," etc. Maybe it worked in Owen Meaney because there was a greater theme of fate/destiny, a terrible sense that we were moving toward the inevitable conclusion whether we want to or not. That theme is utterly missing in Hotel, and as a result, the foreshadowing is just annoying.
I have a lot harder time buying some of the ridiculous elements in this story. I'm learning that making the ridiculous believable is a trademark of Irving's style, but, well, if I didn't believe it, then he didn't. A woman in a bear suit that people actually think is a bear? Have you ever seen a woman in a bear suit? It doesn't look anything like a bear.
I get utterly sick of the heavy-handed "Sorrow floats" attempt at symbolism. It doesn't work for me at all. At all.
And it seems like every time the narrative movement starts to slow down, the author kills someone off. How many people die in the course of 400 pages? The body count is in double-digits. At what point am I allowed to stop caring - or start expecting another death? This is an amateur author trick, one I won't let my students get away with.
John Irving is a strong, talented writer, and I will keep reading his books, hoping to find more like Owen Meaney and less like this. He has a great gift for storytelling, if he can just keep it under control, and I think his forte is micro-scenes and logical folly. He writes good, lovable, warm characters (though he could stand to make them a bit more complex.) He flails around with symbolism and mysticism like a rookie writer in this book, but I am hoping that as he continues to write, he will wield that tool more deftly.
3.0 out of 5 stars In Closing,
This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (Paperback)
This is probably the last Irving book I'll review for a while because I've pretty much read them all until something new comes out. What I can tell you after reading 8 Irving novels, is that some are really good (Cider House Rules, World According to Garp), others are pretty bad (Prayer for Owen Meany, Fourth Hand), and still others are in between (Widow for One Year, Son of the Circus). Hotel New Hampshire I have to put in the third category of in between books.
The best thing about the book is the cast of quirky characters essential to any Irving novel. The Berry family is a loving, oddball family of different personalities, which sometimes conflict, but for the most part work together in a sort of harmony as they grow up. The story follows their misadventures through three variations of the Hotel New Hampshire, one in the rundown town of Dairy, New Hampshire, one in Vienna, and the final one along the ocean in Maine.
Like any Irving novel, you can see elements in past and future books. The way I think of it, Irving's books are all one house and for each novel, the author moves around the furniture a little bit so while it's the same house, it LOOKS slightly different to us readers. After eight novels, I'm used to the references to wrestling, prep schools, Vienna, and bears, though like anyone, I wish Irving would try to move beyond these elements sometimes.
The main weakness of the book is the same as in Owen Meany, although not as pronounced. John the narrator is really a dull guy, who pretty much sits back and has things happen to him as opposed to going out and doing anything. As he says, he's the caretaker of the family, which also means he's not very interesting. However, he's not like John the narrator of the Owen Meany who's completely unlikeable.
So, in closing, this is an enjoyable read and I recommend anyone who's liked some of Irving's other books take a look at this one. If you haven't read any other Irving novels, then I'd say to start with Cider House Rules and World According to Garp, then move on to Son of the Circus, Hotel New Hampshire, Widow for One Year, and Setting Free the Bears. Then at your own risk, try out Owen Meany and the Fourth Hand.
And that, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I gotta say about that.
1.0 out of 5 stars A Cloyingly Thrice-Told Tale,
I love John Irving; popular fiction has a true voice in him. He is a sensitive author who really loves his characters and, more so, needs their story told. The Hotel New Hampshire is an absolute disaster. The problem here is too much preciousness; what with the incessant mentioning of Lilly's smallness, the constant rendering of all things bear-ish...ah, it's too much. John Irving has built a career on profound sameness: every book is a cookie cutter pattern of the preceding book and, although this is something his fans will defend (and for good reason as the telling of the story is all that really matters) I take issue with this particular book's internal repetition. There are maybe four or five themes within the book that are constantly being driven, driven, driven until, and I say this as gently as I can, the book becomes extremely irritating. Irritating: the story, the characters, everything here is like a persistant tap on the forehead for days. The problem is not in the craft or in the content; the problem is that enough is enough after only a few chapters and, sadly, Mr. Irving doesn't feel as such for four hundred pages. Whatever. The rest of his major works are readable enough.
3.0 out of 5 stars The hotel is ok...,
By A Customer
This is my first review, ever. First, I recommend reading The World According to Garp instead of The Hotel New Hampshire. In "The Hotel" there are few obvious weaknesses. First, too many cliched sentences and bad metaphors that have been used a lot, already. The sentences aren't as tight as they are in Garp. Second, the characters are less believable. This is definitely true after an important death (I don't want to give away anything to readers who haven't read this yet). And also, the book is much more predictable than Garp was. Iriving surprised me in Garp with his originality and very good writing. Each sentence was well crafted. The Hotel fails on these accounts, although the characters are fairly well developed. Last, the book drags on. Near the end, I felt enough already, but with Garp, when it ended, I wanted to read more. Writers who are original, across all disciplines, stand out. Pablo Neruda, Bob Solow, Fred Jameson, Thomas Pynchon, John Nash and Slojov Zizek are those who keep it new.
5.0 out of 5 stars VIENNA AND FREUD AND BEARS, "OH, MY",
I seriously don't think that John Irving is capable of telling a bad story. There are storytellers and then there are "storytellers." Irving is in that elevated category making each reading experience a memorable one. Right off the bat, you feel familiar with Irving's trademark themes. No story is complete without either a visit from a bear, a trip to Vienna or a romp with a prostitute. All these things might sound weird but Irving makes them seem so conventional.
Irving takes dysfunction and makes it seem normal. He talks about prostitutes yet it doesn't sound seedy. He gives life to a bear and makes the reader wish that perhaps they could have a bear for a pet. He just makes "pure idiocy sound logical."
The Hotel New Hampshire is the story of the Berry family living different stages of their lives at different hotels they manage to own. The love of hotel life first manifests itself when Win Berry meets Mary Bates at the Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea in Maine during a summer job in 1939. A series of events will find the Berrys opening up their first hotel in New Hampshire where they will attempt to raise their family which includes five children, a dog named Sorrow and a bear named Earl.
This is a family led by Win Berry, a true dreamer. As Irving, or should I say Freud, says, "A dream is a disguised fulfillment of a suppressed wish." In all, the family will fulfill the father's dream by establishing three separate Hotel New Hampshires with the one in Vienna being perhaps the turning point in all their lives. It is here that Irving makes a great statement about terrorists -- one I'd like to repeat as it seems so poignant today, twenty years after he wrote it..."The terrorist pretends he is uninterested in the means. The ends, they say, are what they care about. But they are lying. The means is everything to them. The blast of the bomb, the blood -- they love it all. Their intellectual detachment is a fraud; their indifference is feigned. They tell lies about having higher purposes."
This is an amazing look at an eccentric family made considerably more normal by Irving's words. They will experience life at its fullest while sharing their own measure of sadness as different family members pass on. Irving chooses to pass over these events more swiftly preferring to focus more on the life of the characters as opposed to the deaths because that's what Irving does...he writes about living life -- not about dying death.
When I think back over the years on some of the "characters" that I've read about and remembered like they were friends, it's Irving's characters who always seem to be at the top of the list...T.S. Garp, Owen Meany, Homer. This is the sign of a truly good book -- a book where the characters will last a lifetime in my fictional world. I have now added the entire Berry family to this list proving, once again, that Irving is a great "creator" of everlasting characters.
3.0 out of 5 stars The Second Rate Hotel New Hampshire,
I consider myself lucky. OWEN MEANY was the first Irving book that I read. It just happened to be the one on the shelf at the library at the time. If I had picked up any other of Irving's books first, I doubt I would have gotten very far with them and I doubt that I would have read another book of his. But I thought OWEN MEANY was a great book, and it allowed me to give Irving the benefit of the doubt when the going got rough in some of his other books. THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE is not a great book, but it is a fairly good one. While there's a lot about Irving that I don't care for and some things that I can barely stomach (you know what I'm talking about), I like his technique. He has a way of decorating his stories with all sorts of colorful details and reoccuring motifs. Some of these, like the evolution of the "bear", are truly brillant, while others, like "passing the open windows" and "sorrow floats" are so tedious and redudant, its an effort to keep my dinner from coming up. I liked a lot of the characters in the book, but I felt that more could have been done with them, and I thought that many of the things they do are so far removed from any sort of "normal" behavior that their credibility is strained almost to the breaking point. Also, I agree with many of the reviewers, that there is something sort of creepy about the ease with which these characters deal with the death of their "loved ones". No one seems to shed a tear. I remember noticing this same sort of thing in OWEN MEANY when Jonny Wheelwright lost his mother. He really didn't seem to upset about it. But at the time I wrote this off as a "unreliable narrator" syndrome. Since Jonny was telling the story, maybe he didn't feel comfortable discussing his grief. But here, it just seems creepy. How can a family be close and yet be so blase' when two members crash into the ocean? I think there is a connection here with the incest in the story. A real son would cry for his mother and a real brother wouldn't lust after his sister. It seems like these people are close but yet the true bonds of family are somehow absent. Maybe that's the point. With Irving it's hard to tell exactly what his intentions are. How does HE feel about the Berry family? Is he repulsed by them or does he think they're wonderful? Does he condone what John and Franny do? It's hard to say. John Irving is a good writer, but I think he's got some real problems. By the way, its a shame that...doesn't carry the full size paperback version of this and other John Irving books. They have some great illustrations on the covers. I especially liked the cover of this book, which depicted the Indian motorcycle sitting in an autumn field.
1.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment!,
This is the fifth Irving novel I've read. I loved The World According to Garp, and I didn't read another Irving novel for 6 years, assuming that nothing else he wrote would be as good. I was right, but a friend urged me to read Owen Meany, and I did. I rate Owen almost as highly. And while I didn't personally really LIKE Cider House Rules or A Widow for One Year, I didn't think they were BAD. The Hotel New Hampshire is a bad novel. Perhaps I've gotten too used to Irving, but every plot point seemed taken from an earlier book (most from Garp). The only really new storyline involved incest, which I found disturbing and (worse) uninteresting. Everything in this novel felt predictable and boring, and whether that is because most elements were recycled or because Irving foreshadows every event so obviously, I couldn't say. I found his writing clumsy and heavy-handed. I knew the book had failed when the death of Mother and Egg provoked no emotional reaction whatsoever, when Walt's death in Garp is the only fictional death that has ever made me cry. Please don't read this book as an introduction to Irving. Read Garp or Owen Meany instead.
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The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Paperback - May 1 2001)
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