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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VIENNA AND FREUD AND BEARS, "OH, MY"
I seriously don't think that John Irving is capable of telling a bad story. There are storytellers and then there are "storytellers." Irving is in that elevated category making each reading experience a memorable one. Right off the bat, you feel familiar with Irving's trademark themes. No story is complete without either a visit from a bear, a trip to Vienna or a romp...
Published on 19 Mar. 2003 by TheReader23

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel of ideas that fails to reach dizzy heights, despite its daring
"The Hotel New Hampshire", a novel ostensibly about a New England family who eventually relocate to Vienna, is really an extended experiment of ideas and subjects for Irving and despite the glowing reviews from others, it's not a book which really worked for me personally. Irving throws incest, homosexuality, suicide, disability, philosophy, sexual abuse etc into the mix...
Published on 17 Jan. 2009 by unlikely_heroine


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VIENNA AND FREUD AND BEARS, "OH, MY", 19 Mar. 2003
By 
TheReader23 (Pennsylvania (orig. NY)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
I seriously don't think that John Irving is capable of telling a bad story. There are storytellers and then there are "storytellers." Irving is in that elevated category making each reading experience a memorable one. Right off the bat, you feel familiar with Irving's trademark themes. No story is complete without either a visit from a bear, a trip to Vienna or a romp with a prostitute. All these things might sound weird but Irving makes them seem so conventional.
Irving takes dysfunction and makes it seem normal. He talks about prostitutes yet it doesn't sound seedy. He gives life to a bear and makes the reader wish that perhaps they could have a bear for a pet. He just makes "pure idiocy sound logical."
The Hotel New Hampshire is the story of the Berry family living different stages of their lives at different hotels they manage to own. The love of hotel life first manifests itself when Win Berry meets Mary Bates at the Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea in Maine during a summer job in 1939. A series of events will find the Berrys opening up their first hotel in New Hampshire where they will attempt to raise their family which includes five children, a dog named Sorrow and a bear named Earl.
This is a family led by Win Berry, a true dreamer. As Irving, or should I say Freud, says, "A dream is a disguised fulfillment of a suppressed wish." In all, the family will fulfill the father's dream by establishing three separate Hotel New Hampshires with the one in Vienna being perhaps the turning point in all their lives.
This is an amazing look at an eccentric family made considerably more normal by Irving's words. They will experience life at its fullest while sharing their own measure of sadness as different family members pass on. Irving chooses to pass over these events more swiftly preferring to focus more on the life of the characters as opposed to the deaths because that's what Irving does...he writes about living life -- not about dying death.
When I think back over the years on some of the "characters" that I've read about and remembered like they were friends, it's Irving's characters who always seem to be at the top of the list...T.S. Garp, Owen Meany, Homer. This is the sign of a truly good book -- a book where the characters will last a lifetime in my fictional world. I have now added the entire Berry family to this list proving, once again, that Irving is a great "creator" of everlasting characters.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel of ideas that fails to reach dizzy heights, despite its daring, 17 Jan. 2009
By 
This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
"The Hotel New Hampshire", a novel ostensibly about a New England family who eventually relocate to Vienna, is really an extended experiment of ideas and subjects for Irving and despite the glowing reviews from others, it's not a book which really worked for me personally. Irving throws incest, homosexuality, suicide, disability, philosophy, sexual abuse etc into the mix but neither the plot nor the characters are compelling enough for it really all to hang together.

This is the story of the Berry family, relatively unsuccessful hoteliers who are less living, breathing characters who might just be related to each other, than a motley crew of individuals for Irving to hang all those ideas on and throw things at. A number of reviewers of the book note the merciless way in which youngest child Egg and the mother of the family are dispatched in a plane crash with little ceremony or resulting grief - for me, the starkest example of the book's failure to engage on any emotional level - but the truth is that all of these people could have gone down in flames and I wouldn't have much cared. Irving doesn't bother to develop his characters, and is content to gloss over the fallout from, say, that plane crash, or the gang rape one character suffers, in favour of upping the quirkiness quotient or moving on to the next "controversial" topic on his list.

Ultimately, the book can be enjoyed for the sheer audacity of Irving in his choice of subject matter, and I am giving "The Hotel New Hampshire" three stars because of what this writer tries to cover here and the verve with which he attempts the whole thing. The problem is that having introduced all of his various ideas, Irving doesn't seem to have very much of meaning to say about them, and nothing really rings true from the first page to the last.

As a side note, I can't be the only person to find the depiction of the romantic and sexual exploits of, er, John (interesting choice of name from this author...), this novel's hero, totally unconvincing, not to mention being laden with just that little bit of wish fulfilment. Two key romances in particular are plot points in the novel so I will gloss over most of the details but suffice to say that none of John's relationships with women are the least bit convincing and they all feel like very self-indulgent writing. In particular, the idea that romance or sex with John helps two women (who used to be in a relationship with each other) "get over" very particular issues they had did for me, nearly border on offensive. The love stories (such as they are) in this novel are by far its weakest aspect.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It has plenty of faults but..., 29 Dec. 2006
By 
Mr. M. Read "mdaread" (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
For me, John Irving is a bit of a guilty pleasure. There's a lot of things wrong with his books, many of them being mentioned by a previous reviewer. He doesn't always give his characters a rounded personality (particularly in the case of the narrator, probably something borrowed from The Great Gatsby, a book mentioned a lot in Hotel New Hampshire) and some of the events are a little too bizarre and unlikely to be believable.

Despite this, I've enjoyed all the John Irving books I've read (this one, Garp and Owen Meany) the stories are ones I can get lost in and they're the sort of books I'll sit down to read for half an hour and still be reading two hours later without even realising.

If you pick at the Hotel New Hampshire, it falls apart, but it's a great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eccentric and Entertaining., 30 Dec. 2008
By 
debbie8355 (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read this book many years ago when I was a teenager and I loved it. It is completely off the wall and eccentric while having a great storyline which covers different countries, different hotels (more Twin Peaks than Travelodges) and has a unforgettable family who are extremely normal in many ways but utterly unique and entertaining.
What I remembered loving about this book was it seemed to echo real life. Childhood seems to go on for ages, uneventful and then BAM some lifechanging experience happens and you are off down a different road. The shocks and events keep happening and are really extreme in many ways but it is a great family saga.
This is the only book so far I've ever read twice - so many books, so little time but after reading some relatively turgid books ('The Hour I First Believed' and 'Northern Clemency') it was really great to read a book which actually entertains again rather than being 'worthy' and dull.
I don't think you could ever call this book dull and the adult characters who I found less interesting years ago are now what I most enjoyed about the book. This is a wonderful story which deserves to be read more than once. If you want an original read which packs in lots of characters, history, family life, and exceptional events in a higly entertaining way then this is the book for you!
If you are wondering why there is an odd looking black dog on the front of this cover to give you a taste of this novel that is the family dog Sorrow who is put to sleep in old age because of his flatulence, he is then stuffed in a taxidermy experient by the oldest son. He causes a death. He catches on fire, is remodelled and finally ends up in the Ocean floating. He is only a very, very minor character in the story and a lot more happens to everyone else including the bears,
Anyone looking at the cover and thinking this would be a black dog, depression type story would be completely wrong.
Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hotel New Hampshire, John Irving, 22 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
I loved this book by John Irving, he is such a great writer. The story is made up of larger than life characters (except Lily!) they are all sooo quirky and unusual, but all quite believable!The Berry family consisting of Win and his wife(who I don't think we get the name of!) There is Frank the eldest who is homosexual, there is John who is the narrator of the story,there is Franny, who John is in love with (just a little incest to throw into the mix!!) Lily is next and Lily just can't grow! she is tiny and has a talent for writting, and last but not least is Egg the youngest of the Berry family, who spends his time in his own little world and can't hear what is being said to him! Priceless the lot of them a very funny read although taking in some hefty subjects such as rape and Death all dealt with in the usual Irving witty way. And John Irvings books wouldn't be the same without a Bear to get it all going!! 5 stars from me!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre but brilliant, his closest to 'Owen Meany', 21 Oct. 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
A heartwarming and often very funny story about an eccentric but loving family who run three hotels named after the US state they start out in. Although it is humorous throughout, it also has some very moving and shocking sections. Like all the best novels, it can make you laugh out loud on one page and want to cry the next. The combination of tragedy and comedy, when done well, can make an average story into a great one. Irving is a master of getting the balance between the two right, and he shows it here.

The characters are likeable despite their eccentricity. The plot borders sometimes on the absurd, but it's enjoyable and Irving never quite crosses the line into total farce. The strength of his characterisation means that even the most unlikely scenarios can be accepted. I did wonder if his characters were perhaps a bit too `modern' for their 1950s setting, although I can't pretend I know much about the USA in that decade, so perhaps I'm imagining it as being more repressed than it actually was. Despite the unlikeliness of his storylines, Irving has written a real winner here. The quality of the storytelling is so high that even if the plot wasn't as good and eventful it would be a good read. It's an eventful story which keeps up a good pace throughout and is often very gripping. The descriptions of people and situations are brilliant. Irving can take the most bizarre circumstances and make them entertaining and believable within the strange parameters he sets.

When John Irving is on form, he is a truly fantastic writer. I like some of his novels more than others, and this is one of the best ones. It is much less sexually graphic than some of his later novels, focussing more on the plot. That said, it's not a story for younger readers - it does include themes of rape and incest - but it's handled in a much more sensitive and less gratuitous way than in, for example, `Until I Find You'. Readers who fell in love with Irving's work after reading `A Prayer For Owen Meany' will almost certainly enjoy `The Hotel New Hampshire', because for me of all his novels this matches the style and genius of `Owen Meany' most closely.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Probably the last John Irving book I will read., 5 Jun. 2012
By 
John Williams (Apeldoorn, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read a Prayer for Owen Meany, and then Garp, both brilliant books that gave me high expectations of John Irving. The Cider House Rules was pretty good too. Since then I have read several other books by Irving, always hoping that those early expectations would be met, but they never have been. Most recently I have read The Hotel New Hampshire. The first hundred pages or so are brilliant; for example, the image of the big German riding off on Freud's motorbike pursued by the bear is one that I won't forget. But the story then gets slowed down by unnecessary detail and navel gazing. As the family contemplate their move from New Hampshire to Vienna, and throughout most of their stay there, it really does get quite tedious. (Even the fact that I was staying in Vienna when I read this book couldn't alleviate the boredom!) At the end of the family's stay in Vienna there is some interesting action, and the 'rape' scene in New York towards the end of the book is very funny. Perhaps what the book needed was a more ruthless editor to pare it down to its essentials. Of course, with Irving there is always plenty of kinky sex. This can be entertaining, but when you've read half a dozen or more of his novels it can become somewhat predictable. So this book is a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts. If you're an avid Irving devotee, you will no doubt want to read it, but if you just want to read one of his novels, then I would recommend Garp or Owen Meany.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vienna Revisited, 3 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
I read it first in 1983 and it seems to be haunting me for almost 20 years. Every now and then I have to go back and read it again. Freud (the real Freud), Vienna and the sister's girlfriend (in a bear outfit) do not take leading roles but appear to be leading the story from the background. And so does Egg ... The final words have a life of its own and are also the most touching tribute to Gatsby's unforgettable finale. I look forward to reading it again soon.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and funny, 13 Oct. 2012
By 
Benjamin (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
A family saga told by John, the third child of the Berry family, covering forty years or more. The Berry family is no ordinary family, but a family headed by a father with a vision, the vision of running a hotel; it is a vision that takes the family from New Hampshire to Vienna and back again, and brings them into contact with an array of unusual people.

However it is not father's vision the marks the Berry family as out of the ordinary, it is the extraordinary love that abounds among all its members, and love in many forms including incestuous desires. And one is bound to fall in love with them too, from Frank the eldest and gay son to Egg the youngest who lives in his own world of dressing up, and in between Franny, beautiful and fearless, John our narrator, and the undersized Lily who writes 'to grow'. It is a family that sticks together and pulls together even when in time they move apart geographically.

While consistently funny it yet swings between being moving, occasionally tragic, and at some hilarious for whole episodes, and it is always involving. A most imaginative and engaging and very well written novel filled with an array of unlikely yet believable characters - whether those of the Berry family or those of the numerous individuals who become a part of their lives.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 1 Jun. 2013
By 
Iris (Antwerp/Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) (Mass Market Paperback)
Although I am and always have been a big fan of John Irving, this book was disappointing for me - now and then John writes something, that just doesn't capture me - this book I didn't even finish - I stopped at page 70, paged then thru very quickly in search of something interesting, but found nothing to hold my attention.
In other words : The "story" just bored me mindless, and the Berry children.... well ! Let me just say : Franny is not weird, like we read on the back of the book (I LIKE weird !!), instead she is a downright giant pain in the butt .... I came close to hating her, lol !!
Maybe it's for her, that I finally put the book down and started on another -
speaking of "another" : Don't miss "Until I find you" by John Irving, now THAT is amazing !!!
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The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan)
The Hotel New Hampshire (Black Swan) by John Irving (Mass Market Paperback - 22 Oct. 1982)
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