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Hotel Iris Paperback – 7 Apr 2011

4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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£7.99 FREE Delivery in the UK on orders with at least £10 of books. Only 8 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099548992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099548997
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"It's brave territory for Ogawa, and she manages in with sharp focus; she creates moments of breathtaking ugliness, often when least expected...but also sometimes a longing that is touching and tender" (Independent)

"Both very weird and very good... Image by perfect image, we are led down into a mysterious and gripping universe, simultaneously beautiful and terrifying... From the opening sentences of Hotel Iris you know that every word will count and that every scene will be the occasion for strong and strange feeling" (Times Literary Supplement)

"To read Ogawa is to enter a dreamlike state tinged with a nightmare... She possesses an effortless, glassy, eerie brilliance" (Guardian)

"Precisely written, this dreamlike narrative expands into an ambiguous story of sexual dependency and damage. Ogawa's exact prose glitters as menacingly as the surrounding sea" (Independent)

"Exploring dark desires is something at which Ogawa has become disconcertingly adept" (New York Times)

Book Description

A dark and beautifully written story of a young girl's tragic love triangle with an older man and his young nephew

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Format: Paperback
Ogawa's short novel is set in a Japanese coastal resort town. Which coast it is set on I don't know, but the notion that all those fictional characters who participate in the novel, and the fictional town itself, might no longer exist, adds piquancy to a slight but finely written story of depravity and delinquency. One of the comments in the blurb, by Hilary Mantel, says - "I admire any writer who dares to work on this uneasy territory". This territory being the sexuality of a seventeen year old girl who enjoys, that being the operative word, a fraught and to-most-people's eyes abusive sexual relationship with a man three times her age.

There's much here that seems to resonate with foreign notions of the Japanese psyche. The use of sex as both a complex outlet for power games and a means to excavate the subject's confused interior landscape. Mari, the protagonist, desires the humiliation that her lover, the Russian translator subjects her to. Here is the pertinence of Mantel's comment. It is the kind of book which it might be said could only be published by a female writer, in this day and age. If a man were to suggest that Mari wanted this 'abusive' relationship, exploring it from her point of view, it is hard to think he would be taken seriously and would in all likelihood be read as exploitative. However, in Ogawa's hands, the story is strangely convincing. Mari is never a victim: she remains a level-headed appraiser of her situation, no matter how dangerous. We are in similar territory to the recent film of Norwegian Wood: just because you're going through something difficult and complex doesn't make for an inevitably tragic narrative.
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Hotel Iris is not the best hotel. Located in a seaside resort that appeals mainly to the domestic market, good hotels are close to the beach or have great views. Sadly, Hotel Iris doesn't.

Mari lives at the hotel. Her mother owns it; her father, grandfather and grandmother are all dead. Mari's mother treats her as a skivvy, working longer hours and for fewer thanks than the actual staff maid. Mari is young, naïve and lonely. So when she runs into a translator who offers her companionship, she jumps at the chance even though she knows he has a dark side...

This short novel is carefully written to generate an atmosphere of seediness, decay and menace. We know that Mari is exposing herself to great risk, yet she embraces it as a viable alternative to her hopeless existence at the hotel. It's a difficult balance to strike, but Mari manages to avoid the role of helpless victim; she has a feistiness and determination to get what she wants. Insofar as she is a victim, she is a completely willing one.

One might safely assume that Yoko Ogawa's parents have long since passed because there are some scenes you wouldn't want your mother to read, especially if you had written them yourself. They are intimate and they are graphic. But they contrast with scenes of great tenderness and affection. Hotel Iris is not straightforward; it creates complex people that you never fully know. It is a novel as much about what is not said as what is written down on the page.

As well as the characterisation and story, Ogawa has a great ability to create images and scenes with very few words. The reader stands with Mari and the translator on the ferry, feeling the salt spray in the air; the reader knows the layout of the translator's house; sees the peeling paint in the hotel.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book quickly, partly because I was keen to finish it. Not in a couldn't wait to find out what happened way, nor in a this is bad way but simply beacause it is profoundly unsettling. She writes beautiful, yet creepy descriptions of texture and taste. The story exposes some deeply troubling attitudes to submissive??? sadistic sex. It is well worth a read but be prepared that it is not light read despite its brevity. I would recommend, for those put off by the sound of this story, one of her other stories, The Housekeeper and the Professor - that is truly enchanting.
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Format: Paperback
It's a short book, very easy to read and very captivating. The story is strange and a little disturbing at times, but if you like that kind of thing then it's good, I didn't find it overwhelming at all. I believe the plot is similar to that of Lolita.
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Beautiful and beastly, lurid and loving; violent exposures of longing and dependency. I had to skip several pages of unhealthiness.
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Format: Paperback
For a novel with greater insights on female sexuality, try Hi, I'm Luna. I'm a Sex Addict What is it about the Japanese and their cool fascination in sexual power games? This novel raises the question, but doesn't provide many answers. It's narrated by a 17-year-old girl, who is also the participant, some may say, victim, in an abusive sexual relationship with a man three times her age. In spite of the humiliation this transalator subjects her to she goes back for more. And then some. We never really get to know why. Perhaps it's because he's different and utterly shatters the day-to-day assumptions of meaningful relationships that is her day to day at the hotel. Is it a sort of rebellion against her nagging and controling mother?

It's a slight story and soon over. It would have been more gripping if we'd gained greater insight into what drives the girl and the man. We never sense she is turned on by what she seems compelled to put herself through. She could be describing a day spent making origami. And yet the narrator seems peculiarly unaware - or fatalistic - about the danger she courts. Toward the end I couldn't help reflecting on some of the real life murders committed by Japanese men on women - the Lucy Blackman case came to mind - sadistic fantasies that get completely out of control.

Hotel Iris makes a good companion piece of with Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. For a more insightful novel on female sexuality, check out Hi, I'm Luna. I'm a Sex Addict
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