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Hotel World [Paperback]

Ali Smith
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Mar 2001
This story brings alive five characters, one of whom is dead, during one night in a hotel. The author traces their intersecting lives, examining the themes of time, chance, money and death.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; 1st Penguin Edition edition (29 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241141095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241141090
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,050,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Five disparate voices inhabit Ali Smith's dreamlike, mesmerising Hotel World, set in the luxurious anonymity of the Global Hotel, in an unnamed northern English city. The disembodied yet interconnected characters include Sara, a 19-year-old chambermaid who has recently died at the hotel; her bereaved sister, Clare, who visits the scene of Sara's death; Penny, an advertising copywriter who is staying in the room opposite; Lise, the Global's depressed receptionist; and the homeless Else who begs on the street outside. Smith's ambitious prose explores all facets of language and its uses. Sara takes us through the moment of her exit from the world and beyond; in her desperate, fading grip on words and senses she gropes to impart the meaning of her death in what she terms "the lift for dishes"--then comes a flash of clarity: "That's the name for it, the name for it; that's it; dumb waiter dumb waiter dumb waiter." Blended with hers are other voices: Penny's bland journalese and Else's obsession with metaphysical poetry.

Hotel World is not an easy read: disturbing and witty by turns, with its stream-of-consciousness narrators reminiscent of Virgina Woolf's The Waves, its deceptively rambling language is underpinned by a formal construction. Exploring the "big themes" of love, death and millennial capitalism, it takes as its starting point Muriel Spark's Momento Mori ("Remember you must die") and counteracts this axiom with a resolute "Remember you must live". Ali Smith's novel is a daring, compelling, and frankly spooky read. --Catherine Taylor

About the Author

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. Her first book, FREE LOVE, won the Saltire First Book Award. LIKE was published in 1997 and OTHER STORIES AND OTHER STORIES in 1999. Ali Smith also writes for the Scotsman and the TLS. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
Woooooooo-hooooooo what a fall what a soar what a plummet what a dash into dark into light what a plunge what a glide thud crash what a drop what a rush what a swoop what a fright what a mad hushed skirl what a smash mush mash-up broke and gashed what a heart in my mouth what an end. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rebegotten 14 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Ali Smith's Hotel World was shortlisted for both the Orange and the Booker Prize. Although this book is in many ways about death, it is so vivid and vital that it is not surprising that it has won such critical praise. Some readers have compared Ali Smith's writing with that of Virginia Woolf, but I think that Virginia Woolf would have good reason to be afraid of Ali Smith. Okay, so both have written novels that are full of streams of consciousness, but the spirits in Ali Smith's world are far more witty and recognisable, even if their "minibar is fear".
All five voices in this book belong to women, so Ali Smith may have a weakness when it comes to portraying men. The first voice we hear is the spirit of the recently departed Sara Wilby, a promising young swimmer who could have been a sub for the national team. She has died in a freak accident just days after starting a new job in a hotel. Her spirit interrogates her corpse with clenched teeth to find out how it happened. Clare Wilby, Sara's younger sister, is just as determined to find out what exactly happened, and haunts the streets outside the hotel. Lise, the hotel receptionist, only has vague memories (if any) of Sara before her death, tries to help Clare, unaware that she will be bedridden a few months later, felled by a mysterious disease. Else is dying on the streets, probably wasting away with tuberculosis. Her world seems inhabited by the strange words she picks up from poets in libraries who died long ago. She tries to find the meaning of "rebegot" from John Donne's A Nocturnal on St. Lucy's Day. In the company of the affluent, but ignorant, journalist Penny, this word transmutes into "rebiggot".
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoying it more with the remembering 27 July 2004
By A Customer
3.5 stars would be more accurate for this book. It didn't touch me enough for a 4, but 3 seems stingy for a book that has so much in its favour.
As other reviewers have pointed out, the title doesn't really describe the content. I think I was hoping for a novel / stories grounded very much in the setting of the hotel - I expected that the hotel would be an ever-present nameless character. But it wasn't; I felt the hotel was really just used to group the characters. So i'm still waiting for the book that WILL evoke hotel life in the way I'd hoped this would.
However, there were some wonderful moments in this book, fresh prose, some lovely ideas - the spirit questioning the corpse of the departed Sara Wilby was beautiful and I liked a lot of Claire Wilby's chapter; I really felt the pain of the sister left behind. I loved the detail, though at times the stream of consciousness style got a little much for me. I enjoyed the interplay between the characters, and the links that the reader was able to see which the characters couldn't.
Unfortunately, in some areas, I wished the prose on at a faster rate. With reflection though, I feel enjoyed the book more than I did on first reading.
I found the last passages of the book quite magical, the morning; glimpses of all the characters we'd met, some we hadn't, the threads between characters waking up around the country. Not the most startlingly original idea, of course, but beautifully executed.
I would recommend this book, and I think that in time I will read it again, and probably gain even a little more from it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hyped 31 July 2006
I first learned of Ali Smith's Hotel World on Radio 4. She was being interviewed about her award-winning book, and I thought, 'Radio 4 -- it must be good.' Wrong. While the multiple narrators in the novel have an incredible ability to notice minute details and form them into connected ideas or have them flow from one idea to another (stream of consciousness), the novel fails. The individual characters have limited space, literally and physically/metaphysically, and their messages are muted by all of the insignificant observations they make. I struggled to get throught the novel, and twenty pages from the end, I threw in the towel. Smith will never be a Virginia Wolf based on Hotel World.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By unlikely_heroine VINE VOICE
Ali Smith’s stream of consciousness novel tells the stories of several different female characters who all have a connection with the same hotel. One is a guest, one a receptionist and one a homeless woman who gets the chance to stay in the hotel for a night. The stories of these three women, whilst convincing and well-written, are not the true heart of this novel. This can be found instead in the book’s strongest and most striking sections: those told from the point of view of a young chambermaid who has been killed in the hotel in a freak accident, and her younger sister, who struggles to find answers about her sister’s life and death by visiting the place in which she died.
The opening section, in which the dead girl’s spirit tries to understand what has happened, is mesmerising, captivating from the very start. It‘s very sad, but also intriguing - there are some great ideas to be found here. The book does flag a little at times when we shift focus to the other narrators, but there are some neat little touches in the writing and the inter-connection between the characters is well done. The book returns to form as we hear from the dead girl’s sister and I thought the sense Smith gives of being the person left behind, and of not knowing how to think about the dead, was very well done.
“Hotel World” is different to most fiction I have read recently, in terms of its style, and the fact that there are some ideas in the writing, and in the perspective on life and death, that were new to me. Although it has its flaws, Smith has been largely successful in creating a compelling and thought-provoking novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, yes yea
This is a well book at a really good price. I am very happy with this purchase. Very happy !
Published 2 months ago by Chris
1.0 out of 5 stars Interesting style, but lacking substance
Ali Smith has a gift for writing in a way which brings the reader very close to her characters. But the down side of this is, it gets boring. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sue
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Confusing! Deep in thoughts...
This book is a must. You might either love it or hate it but the message is the most important in the human's life; Remember to Live! Because the time is ticking away....
Published 15 months ago by A. Domonkos
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Poignant
Ali Smith's second novel, rather more experimental than her first, is a witty and melancholy tale based around a hotel (part of a ubiquitous chain). Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2012 by Kate Hopkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Soft hearted modernism.
I've had this book for ages but only gave it a real go when I ran out of Agatha Christie in the middle of the night recently. Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2012 by Valentine Gersbach
1.0 out of 5 stars RambleJarbleGurgle
I picked up the book & tried to read it but the guys working outside he's making way too much noise one of them's wearing a yellow jacket like say you look at the road *random... Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2012 by Poison-the-cure
5.0 out of 5 stars & since I will always know off by heart I will not forget the sound of...
Ali Smith is one of those hyped-up authors that critics love, but most people just don't get. She's both hated and loved for her streams of consciousness style and for the... Read more
Published on 9 Dec 2011 by R. Chiratheep
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much descriptive waffle
I listened to this as an audio book and started skipping bits. The long passages of introspective waffle about nothing very much became very tiresome. Read more
Published on 30 Sep 2010 by Dunfermline woman
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant...
I loved Hotel World; it's a truly brilliant book that made me feel lucky to be alive. Ali Smith has a writing style that's beautiful, original, but most strikingly, incredibly... Read more
Published on 11 May 2008 by rivadireno
3.0 out of 5 stars Ulysses Lite
Very derivative, I thought. Although it is well-written, and I did like the first chapter. I thought it should have been left on its own as a short story.
Published on 16 Dec 2007 by Christopher Taylor
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