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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Hotel New Hampshire
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Showing 1-10 of 14 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
on February 8, 2005
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
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on April 4, 2001
With The Hotel New Hampshire John Irving wrote one of his best books and one of my personal favorites. Although in every book several themes return (we already read about rape, wrestling and Vienna in The World According to Garp and the transsexuals from this book can also be found in A Son Of The Circus and the bears... well, you got the point now, I suppose), every work of John Irving is original, surrealistic and moving.
John Irving writes about people. And whether he writes about Owen Meany, Dhar or The Watermethod Man, he writes about life. All his characters are in a way eccentric and bizarre, but always understandable and just normal people. Irving describes their lives, their thoughts, their emotions and so tries to find the meaning and purpose of our own lives. Irving's books are in that way portraits, but not just portraits. It are portraits of colorful people, absurd, but still in a way being like us. We can see ourselves in the eyes of Irving's main characters. And that's, beside his wonderful writing style and humor, what I like about Irving and especially about "The Hotel New Hampshire" that's a fresh and imaginative dive in Irving's world and really worth reading!
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I have really puzzled over some of the comments other reviewers have made about this book, and wonder if they read the same one I have read (and reread several times). First of all, Irving is known for his strange, evocative and surreal sensibilities; witness the bee sting killing in "Setting Free the Bears" or the ritual tongue-surgeries in "The World According to Garp". Criticizing him on that level means the reviewer is really not too familiar with the corpus of Irving's work, so probably doesn't "get" what it is Irving is saying. Also, it is in the face of such absurdities that all of us must, at least according to Irving, try to find the meaning and purpose of our own lives, like Garp or any of the other figures on the proverbial journeys he sets them on. Finally, Irving's duty isn't to just entertain the reader in a predictable way, but rather to play artfully with the notion that he can create a surreal world that in its own fashion represents a truer & more understandable world than the one we so drunkenly and absent-mindedly habituate every day. That's what some folks call art.
Given all that, perhaps it is more useful to try to discern what it is Irving is trying to say so artfully and colorfully in each of his novels, rather than compare one to another or make comparisons among them. I remember reading once that great novels were like fantastic gems, many of them flawed, but all of them brilliant, colorful, and beautiful to the well-trained eye. So viewed, so is this book brilliant, colorful, and beautiful. This is the tragicomic story of a family trying again and again, regardless of the personal consequences or absurdities of fate, to get it right, attempting to live one after another of their father's fatally flawed dreams, and finally coming to terms with what it most important, most lasting, and singularly true for them as people and as a family.
In my humble opinion, the last few pages of this novel read as poignantly, as meaningfully, and as beautifully as anything anyone has been writing for the last half century in so-called contemporary fiction. Who but John Irving could essay with such whimsy and wile to invoke the strange totem powers of his ever-present bears to conjure up whatever magic it takes for each of us to be kind and strong and present for each other in our mutual times of need, to ask each of us to care? What he has to say about the contemporary state of relationships in our times, and about the obligations, joys and pains of living purposefully, meaningfully, and for the long haul as a loving and understanding family is as dead-on inspiring as I have ever read. How do you live meaningfully in a world full of horror, unexpected tragedy, and overwhelming purposelessness? Perhaps in the world according to John Irving, as a loving family. Enjoy.
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on March 12, 1999
I know that this is violating "reviewer guidelines," but the review that sparked this remark has done so to a much worse degree. Please do not read the review of Feb 4th titled "Good Lord" if you haven't read the book--the reviewer in his/her raging disappointment over the book has vehemently revealed just about every crucial plot turn of the book. Enough said!
The Hotel New Hampshire is not one of John Irving's best, it's true. There really are some elements that seem a bit too contrived, some characters a little too one-dimensional. Irving has really pushed his usually phenomenal ability to make the fantastic and bizarre palatable. However, it still shines as a cut above average fiction. It still pulls you into the story, no matter how reluctant you may be to go there. Irvings trademark mixture of tragedy and slapstick humor is in full swing, and you find yourself wondering, "how can I be laughing at this? How can I be reading this? It's ridiculous!!"
I say if you have read Irving before, it's not his best (Owen Meany and the The Water Method Man are top-notch), but I still say read it, you'll be glad--it's still John Irving. And if you haven't read this author, read it knowing that this is one of his lesser attempts, but still worth reading, as Irving at his worst is still one of the most talented writers I know
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on April 29, 1998
Wow! The first book of Irving's I read was "A Prayer for Owen Meany" - perhaps that was a mistake because now when I read his other novels, they just don't compare. I would rank "The Hotel New Hampshire" as my 3rd favourite (with Garp coming in second to Owen). But, who else but John Irving could come up with the Berry family? So many taboo situations (although, it was written prior to the Politically Correct Ages): homosexuality, incest, dwarfism, lust, death, fascism, prostitution, "abortions & miscarriages". It just makes my head spin that he can pull off such a novel. So many emotions were toyed with: sadness (when SO MANY PEOPLE DIE!!), revulsion (not too hip to incest), love (I too lusted for Franny), laughter (need I explain?), and yearning (I want to see the movie now for sure). It is also interesting how autobiographical his novels are (at least in particular characters) - in Owen, it was easy to see "John" as John, in "Garp" you also see a little of him, but in "Hotel" it was hard to see who was supposed to be John - "Iowa Bob"? "Win Berry"? (isn't John's middle name Winslow?), or again another John (John Berry)? There are also the references to wrestling (John's favourite sport). You begin to wonder about the other things that reoccur in his novels - prostitution, Vienna (although he did live there for a time I believe), bears (Hotel & Garp), incest (Hotel & Owen), tragic death (Owen, Garp, Hotel, Son of, 158lb Marriage). Anyways, before you begin to think that I didn't like the novel - I did - I loved it!! John Irving is my favourite author (and I've read a lot) - I can hardly wait to jump into "A Widow For A Year".
Mr. Irving - Thanks for another great read!!
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on June 11, 2001
This is my second Irving, and I guess I'm going to have to read all the others. This one wasn't as good as Garp (thus 4 stars) but still a very good read. Irving creates some of the most fascinating characters I have ever read, just really understandable yet dynamic. Take that, add an interesting but strange story and lots of 'sorrow' you get an amazing read that leaves you bewildered but amused. Irving's most amazing talent is to turn tragedy into humor (sorrow floats) but not being overly flippant or mocking about it. He take serious topics and while being serious about it, shows some of the stranger/amusing aspects of it (politics of a rape help center?). A really engrossing book, that is well worth reading.
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on December 8, 1999
John Irving's undoubtedly weird characters are often so wonderfully described that they make you feel for them whether you want to or not. "The Hotel New Hampshire" is the story of five siblings; two of them having an incestous relationship, one of them a midget, one of them dressing up all the time for no apparent reason, one of them extremely special in other ways. Yet they are made believable. And yet their story will fascinate you; leave you awake at night wondering about them; make you think. And move you very much. Somehow this very special and improbable story appears very realistic, and very interesting too. Highly recommended.
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on August 22, 1998
Only John Irving could write (and get away with) a book about incest, homosexuality, rape, bears, and death and keep it from sounding like a bad Jerry Springer episode. He has a talent for making the utterly ridiculous sound astoundingly normal and the astoundingly normal utterly ridiculous. "The Hotel New Hampshire" is no exception. Although it doesn't compare to such masterpieces as "Garp" and "Owen Meany", it is still an exceptional piece of work from an exceptional author.
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on August 17, 2003
This book, hot on the heels of the defining epoch of "The World According to Garp", isn't as great as its immediate predecessor, but it is a solid read nonetheless. Irving re-visits several themes from "Garp" in this book, among them Vienna, bears and rape. In spite of these familiarites, the book isn't weighed down by them, but added its own familiar dimension. Irving is a favorite of mine when I need to read a novel packed with out-of-the-ordinary events and weird characters. Check it out after reading "Garp".
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on April 3, 2002
Although I still consider A Prayer For Owen Meany his greatest book, John Irving was extremely entertaining in The Hotel New Hampshire. He seems to have an obsession with bears, but they make for humorous reading. Mr. Irving has a way of making the most bizarre events quite believable. I think he is one of the most extraordinary writers of our time. He has a unique sense of humor. After reading each of his books, I always wish I knew him so that I could call him to discuss the book. Enjoyable reading!
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