Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen

The Hotel
by Elizabeth Bowen
University of Chicago Press, 2012
originally published in 1927
209 pages
source: purchased ebook

Book Description (from amazon):
Bowen’s first novel, The Hotel, is a wonderful introduction to her disarming, perceptive style. Following a group of British tourists vacationing on the Italian Riviera during the 1920s, The Hotel explores the social and emotional relationships that develop among the well-heeled residents of the eponymous establishment. When the young Miss Sydney falls under the sway of an older woman, Mrs. Kerr, a sapphic affair simmers right below the surface of Bowen’s writing, creating a rich story that often relies as much on what is left unsaid as what is written on the page. Bowen depicts an intense interpersonal drama with wit and suspense, while playing with and pushing the English language to its boundaries.

My thoughts:

I usually love character-driven novels and the idea of a group of characters in a closed setting (a hotel on the Italian Riviera in the 1920's in this case) sounds especially appealing. But for such a short book, The Hotel took me an awfully long time to read.

The Hotel is not a novel to read for the story; there is actually very little in the way of plot. It's all about relationships - some existing, but most are new. It is well-written and perceptive, but it's also cold... distant, chilly, perhaps even clinical. Bowen seems to feel no warmth toward her characters, and as a result, I felt none either. Whenever I put the book down, there was never a hurry to pick it up again.

I read The House in Paris several years ago and, while I liked it better than The Hotel, the same coolness was present and it was also a very slow read. I wonder if this is true for all of Bowen's novels.

I hate to say it, but the cover was my favorite part of this book.

My rating:



Bottom line:
The Hotel  is beautifully written and insightful, but somewhat cold and not especially compelling,

28 comments:

  1. Well, too bad, what a great cover!!!

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    1. Jill - That may be my favorite cover of the year... oh, well.

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  2. I'm feeling much the same about this book. I admire it more than I love it, and I've put it to one side for a while.

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    1. Jane - Yes, that's exactly it! I definitely admire the book, but certainly did not love it.

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  3. Ha!! I was just getting ready to say how much I love that cover. Too bad the story didn't grab you.

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    1. Beth F - I love the cover art... just wish the story had been a little more interesting.

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  4. Oh, that is too bad! I was drawn to the cover and blurb, but I don't enjoy detached, clinical novels...I have run into a few of those over the years. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - Judging from the cover and blurb, I figured this novel might end up as a favorite...

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  5. I would have picked this one up for the cover, too. The description sounds really great as well. What a bummer the story was such a letdown.

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    1. Aarti - The cover and blurb are both so appealing... I really wanted to love this one!

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  6. This sounds so appealing until I read that you'd couldn't fully engage while reading. I've not read any of EB's writing. So, thanks for introducing me. Maybe, do you think this would be a better listen? (BTW, I see there are two Arti's, one with an extra 'a'. :) )

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    1. Arti - I've never considered listening to Bowen, but see her novel The Death of the Heart is available on audible... and read by a narrator I've enjoyed before. Maybe I will go that route when I'm ready to try Bowen again. Not sure if it would have made a difference with this one though.

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  7. Between the cover and premise I was really intrigued by this one. That being said I don't think it's for me. While I enjoy character driven stories I like them to be warm and loud versus cold. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Katherine - Warm may be the last word I would choose to describe this one...

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  8. I hate to say this too, but after hearing so many good things about her writing I abandoned The House in Paris after only a few chapters, with the same feelings about it. I loved reading about EB's friendship with Eudora Welty when I was reading about the latter a year or two ago, so she'll stay high on my list for that reason, anyway. (I love the cover, though!)

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    1. Audrey - Well, I'm glad it's not just me. You didn't miss much by not finishing The House in Paris. I think Darlene really liked Bowen's To the North, but it may be a while before I read her again. I'd much rather spend time with Eudora Welty!

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  9. I need plot so I'll probably skip this one.

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    1. Kathy - I'm sure that's the right decision.

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  10. Haven't read this one, but I did read Hotel du Lac; Brookner one year when we were on vacation. It takes place in Switzerland and, is a slim and pretty good read.

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    1. Diane - I liked Hotel du Lac much more than this book!

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  11. The cover is certainly appealing, and the Italian Riviera in the 20's doesn't hurt either- sorry to hear it was slow going.

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    1. Greg - I expected to like this much more than I did :(

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    1. Sheila - Didn't live up to expectations for me... loved the cover though.

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  13. Oh JoAnn...what is to be done with you *sigh*. You do know that I'm laughing as I write this...don't you. Without a love of Bowen in common we can never truly be the best of friends but I will try to understand, promise.

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    1. Darlene - Yes, I'm struggling with Bowen. In the comment to Audrey above, I thought I remembered that you especially liked To the North? Am willing to give her one more shot... in the name of friendship :-)

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  14. I think I have had more downs than ups with Bowen. I quite liked The House in Paris and it certainly seemed much more accessible than others by her that I have tried.

    It's always a bit fascinating when a short book takes a long time to read.

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    1. Thomas - I'm willing to give Bowen a third shot, but am not in any hurry.

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