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Hotel Iris Paperback – 7 Apr 2011


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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

`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' --The Independent

Book Description

A dark and beautifully written story of a young girl's tragic love triangle with an older man and his young nephew --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By maldoror on 2 May 2011
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ed J on 9 Nov 2010
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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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Sep 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Freja on 2 Sep 2011
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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Woolgatherer on 1 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written little book. Yoko Ogawa has an amazing eye for detail, both in her descriptions of places and scenes, and in extracting details from the lives of her protaganists, and the language is deceptively pellucid.

It is the story of a relationship between the lonely and put upon Mari with a much older man, who is only ever known as, "the translator". The translator has a very bad reputation, and some rather depraved practices. The book leaves many questions unanswered. Is Mari drawn into his world to escape the tedium of her own, is he a father substitute or she seeking revenge for her mother's overbearing control of her life? The reader is left with a lot to ponder upon. Although Mari is of age (at least in most jurisdictions), I couldn't help but draw comparisons between her and Lolita, and how that story might have been told from Lolita's perspective.

Ms Ogawa skilfully builds up a feeling of claustrophobia and foreboding as the tension mounts, and complications with the translator's nephew ensue. Alas, without giving anything away, the ending was sudden and brutal. That's why I give this book four stars rather than five. It is well written, the characterisation is excellent, but I like books to end with at least a tiny glimmer of hope, but this one didn't. If you can overlook that flaw, this is well worth a read.
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