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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 6 June 2006
I enjoyed Alexei's other books, but this one is his best to date, imho. I read it at a time when I needed some serious encouragement - and I got it. It made me want to start jumping out of trees too! I'm especially admiring of Alexei's ability to write convincingly from the female point of view. Many of the jokes had me laughing out loud; one (the one which repeats) was irritating (but that's the point, partly). I found all of the characters authentic and will definitely read this book again and again over the years (I've read it twice so far).

Finally, you know you've read a good book when you start wondering what certain characters did about such-a-thing and how they're doing now.
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on 11 June 2007
I don't understand why Alxei Sayle is not more celebrated as a writer. His books are accessible, fun, witty and well-written. He is easily the equal of many more feted authors (Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and John O' Farrell spring to mind) and yet his work seems to get little recognition. Perhaps he is still equated in the minds of many as the short, fat anarchic comedian that he was in the 80s? If this is the reason, that's a shame! Alexei Sayle is genuinely talented and I hope he continues to grow as a writer.

"Weeping Women Hotel" is written mostly from the points of view of two sisters. When I started reading this I found it difficult to believe that Sayle could pull off getting into the mind of a woman, but he managed it successfully as far as I'm concerned (but then what would I know as a man!). It would be interesting to find out the views of women readers of the book on this! The characterisation of the women, Harriet (fat and unattractive) and her sister Helen (successful and good-looking) is excellent throughout. they are both thoroughly believable characters even though at times Sayle tends to describe things in a whimsical manner and the names and personalities of a few of the minor characters are less believable.

The plot concerns the introduction of Harriet to a bizarre martial arts cult and her subsequent development. A side plot involves Helen and her semi-imaginary friend, an Argentinian puppeteer. The plots intertwine nicely and by the end are building to what seems like a frightening conclusion. However, the book stops rather suddenly. I was left looking for a missing chapter. hence, 4 stars rather than 5 for what is otherwise a very enjoyable book.

There are some disturbing scenes in the book (you would expect nothing else from Alexei Sayle) but this is a very enjoyable read. It's ideal material for taking on holiday. Not too taxing but thoroughly entertaining. It may not be quite up to the standard of his short stories (read The Dog catcher - that's very good!) but this is another sign that Alexei Sayle the writer is developing.
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on 26 June 2017
Meet Harriet. An overweight, self-conscious invisible mender of clothing. A frustrated bid to get fit sees her engage Patrick from her gym as a personal trainer. With the PT sessions not going as planned, Harriet tries to ditch Patrick but soon faces his wrath. So begins Harriet's transformation that sees her master an ancient Marshall art and consort with known villains. But Harriet soon learns that the grass isn't always greener.
Another brilliant, character-driven story from Sayle. It may drag a little but it certainly isn't dull. Plenty of lines had me chuckling.
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on 28 February 2006
Alexei Sayle's short stories were a revelation, so nearly immaculate it made you wonder how he did it. His first novel Overtaken had a brilliant structure, with stories on many levels, but it was patchy in its storytelling, whereas The Weeping Women Hotel is complex yet transparent and accessible. Sayle's depiction of the main character, Harriet, and the people around her is spot on. I'm a woman of nearly the same age as Harriet and at times it seemed almost impossible to imagine that her story was written by a middle-aged man, it feels so accurate and real. There are all the unexpected twists and turns that mark an Alexei Sayle story, and the jokes, and all the interesting and weird stuff, but more than that, I found it clever, profound and deeply moving. Probably a good read for men as well, but certainly a great gift to buy for a girlfriend.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 September 2009
Alexei Sayle can write a very funny sentence and has wit and style. Though he was acclaimed by Richard and Judy to be "a brilliant writer" and "a great novelist," I have to say this goes too far. He's not a great novelist, but he is a very funny writer.

This book has an ambitious sub-text, and it is about women who struggle to make sense of a hostile world. The novel opens with battered, bruised, Harriet checking into a hotel somewhere near Crewe where she will stay until her money runs out, then take a menial job at the hotel for room and board. The novel then proceeds to tell the story of how she got there. It is not exactly what one might guess from Harriet's physical condition.

The novel takes on conventional standards of beauty, the soullessness of modern culture and community, the failure of spiritual beliefs to provide solace, and in general copes as well as any novel can with such a disparate and wide-ranging, not to say unfocused, range of subjects. Alexei Sayle writes well from a woman's viewpoint and the novel is engaging and amusing, as well as attempting some serious under-the-surface commentary. Much of it verges on the surreal, however, and it is this that some readers may find distracting. This is a pity because, viewed in its entirety, it is a highly original and entertaining book.
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on 27 November 2010
There's no reason why a good stand-up comedian should make a good novelist, so I wasn't particularly disappointed to find that this doesn't live up to the hype. Ignore the Richard-and-Judy blurb on the front; the praise is even less warranted than usual.
The story is mostly about Harriet, a lonely overweight woman who gets into absurd situations with her personal trainer and various other misfits.
The minimal plot is just a vehicle for Alexei Sayle's wacky humour, which is fine, except that you have to read the novel if you want to find the jokes. We keep rambling along some tangent or other in search of another laugh, but these get less frequent as the book progresses, to the point where it just becomes nonsense.
The writing isn't too bad but could have done with more editing, especially punctuation. Recommended for those who have no other books to hand and nothing much else to do.
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on 31 March 2007
I picked this up due to the cover (font and style) and then saw it was by Alexi Sayle, who I only know through 'The Young Ones', so was interested to see what on earth this would be like.

And, it was pretty good. It starts off with a battered woman coming to a hotel, then taking you back to a year ago, where we find out how she came to get there, along with a sneery look at the way people live today (in a modern London suburb).

Although the ending wasn't as dramatic as it could be, it was a very good read, and one that made me laugh aloud at points, which is what you'd expect from someone like Alexi Sayle.
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on 27 April 2006
Alexei is a delightful writer, his work exudes all the characteristics one might expect from his television work, and more besides.

This book, whilst delivering some fabulous characterisation, never quite seems to achieve what it promises. The end in particular doesn't really draw on the growing sense of tension as the unexpected common thread between the characters is unveiled.

Perhaps, as a naturalised southerner, the story was just too subtle for me, as another reviewer suggests?

One more thing, as a resident of Crewe I think I can confirm that the town doesn't have a single hotel that quite measures up to this description!

A thoroughly enjoyable read, but one that left me feeling that I had missed something!
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on 25 February 2006
I finished The Weeping Women hotel last night and haven't stopped thinking about it since. I think we've found a new Evelyn Waugh for the working classes. This book should win the Booker but I think it's too subtle for Southerners.
This book makes some massive statements in sardonic and measured tones. It is deceptively easy to read and is as compelling as the best thrillers. For several hours after I'd finished it - in two sittings - I thought deeply about the issues which Alexei illuminates. The jokes are good too. Alexei is a magnificent comedian who has never sold out and is not afraid to use his wit as a sword.
Alexei realistically describes apparently mundane situations and then casually cracks the mirror to challenge notions of reality in a way reminiscent of Murukami but without the self-conscious intellectualism. You can empathise with all the characters and, strangely, sympathise but not condone their oddness. The first amazing surprise is that the book is writtten from the point of view of Harriet, a fat woman who becomes thin. I can't think of many men who can write about women in such a convincing fashion. You could see Harriet as a younger Julie Walters character but who'd have thought Alexei Sayle of all people had a feminine side? I'd be interested to hear what women thought of the book and surprised if it didn't become a feminist tract.
It's the detatchment that gives The Weeping Women Hotel passable credentials as a great novel. It has resonance and a beginning, middle and end. The author observes but does not moralise. It can be read as a great piece of comedy writing, a social commentary and a thriller all at the same time. It is enormously funny and entertaining but takes the reader down some dark alleys. This is not the work of an anguished Oxbridge moralist or a middle class guffer getting down with the masses. It's classless, ultimately bleak in a 'that's all folks' sort of way but it's not smug or cruel.
Amongst the many themes which (I think) Alexei is asking us to think about are the attraction of cults and Eastern mumbo-jumbo as an escape from the humdrum nature of things as they are; the break-up of the family unit in a world where what you do is more important than who you are; the emasculation of the male and what happens when mousy girls aspire to become strongmen. He's also exploring the nature of a mental breakdown. But others might see completely different things - that's what makes this book compelling.
The barmy martial artists are well-observed. Buy it and buy one for your friend who spends too much time in the gym. And read it at least twice. That's what I'm going to do now.
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on 18 July 2007
One of the best books I've read in 12 months - very funny, especially on the London, charity and gym/body scenes (these probably transpute to other cities and cultures). The weirdness of it was so refreshing; it had a strong narrative; characters were people; philosophy of the ultimate meaningless of life suited me but maybe that was because the story is ultimately warm-hearted. Alexei Sayle is now on my 'must read' list.
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