Happy Saturday! It’s shaping up to be a very busy weekend for me, mostly of my own creation. I decided this morning that I was going to have a big reorganise of my room and… well, it’s a mess right now! I’m taking a quick break to write this review, then I’m going to visit my favourite restaurant for lunch, then get some photos taken for bookstagram, and then this evening I’ll have to sort out the mess and try to write a couple more blog posts. But for now, time to slow down for a minute and write this review!
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride was a bit of an impulse purchase: Faber were having a big sale on some of their eBooks, and I’d either read or planned to read A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (which I did really love!), and I thought why not? I was really excited going into this, because of how much I enjoyed A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, and I was expecting something along the same lines. Sadly, this one didn’t quite deliver.
The main thing I noticed when I started reading this novel was the style. I know McBride’s style as very stream-of-consciousness, very experimental and really gripping. However, Strange Hotel is written in what is, for the most part, straight-forward prose. Never mind, I thought, there’s nothing wrong with regular prose. McBride chose to omit many details from this story, offering the reader very little in the way of background. I like this kind of sparse prose, so it wasn’t a problem for me, but I did feel like it was edging on too sparse, to the point where I wasn’t really sure what the actual point was meant to be.
Having read this book from beginning to end in just two sittings (it’s really not a long book, else I’m not sure I would have stuck with it), I was left feeling pretty much like I didn’t have a clue what I’d just read. There was enough in there to identify the main themes of the text: isolation and sexuality being the two most prominent ones. Although I could identify these themes, and the novel explores the psyche of an isolated woman, drifting between hotel rooms in different cities, sometimes alone, sometimes with a man, I couldn’t really tell you what message McBride is trying to convey with this piece of work.
The protagonist then: an unnamed woman, presumably middle-aged, presumably employed by some large business that requires her to travel a lot, definitely not engaging. There was a lot of potential with this character, I felt, and I like that we don’t know a lot about her, but the lack of detail was to such an extent that she didn’t seem like a real character. She felt very shallow and two-dimensional, which was a big shame. The other characters (the men), were basically non-existent. They could well all have been the same man, for all the differentiation between them. They were very much vehicles for McBride to explore the theme of sexuality, but aside from telling the reader that this protagonist enjoys one night stands and doesn’t want commitment, I’m not sure what else I was really supposed to take away.
Although I’m being pretty negative, I still didn’t hate it. I do think this is a book that could benefit from being reread, but I don’t know that I’m actually engaged enough by it to bother. I was engaged enough to finish it, and I don’t feel as though it was a waste of my time to read it. The prose was good, and I enjoyed trying to piece things together, even if the end result was a jigsaw where half the pieces have been lost to time.
Would I recommend this book? Probably not, to be honest. I don’t think it lived up to my expectations, and it’s not a book that I think I’ll really think about much in future. I do recommend the other book by McBride that I’ve read (A Girl is a Half-formed Thing), and I think I will try to read her other novel, The Lesser Bohemians, as GoodReads reviewers seem to be saying that it’s closer in style to A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.
Are there any books you’ve read recently that have disappointed you, or not lived up to expectations? Have you ever loved one book by an author and then not enjoyed a different title by them? Let’s commiserate in the comments so I’m not alone!
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[…] Strange Hotel – Eimear McBride. 2.5 stars.A sort of disappointing read, this didn’t live up to A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. It was still enjoyable, but not as much as I’d hoped, and I do wish that it had had a bit more substance to it. As it was, the themes felt underexplored, and the characters fell flat. McBride’s prose redeemed it a little bit, but even that didn’t especially stand out to me. You can find my review here. […]