The Hotel New Hampshire

By John Irving,

Book cover of The Hotel New Hampshire

Book description

'The first of my father's illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.'

So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Hotel New Hampshire as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Just a great novel – you will fall in love and empathize with the characters.

As always, Irving mixes in life and death making the fiction feel real. Irving has a way of surprising the reader. Each plot turn will bring out a new emotion. The reader will feel sorrow, anger, and love while identifying with the characters.

Most importantly, Irving has a real touch with making me laugh at the twists and turns of life.

A friend gave me a copy of this book many years ago and told me I’d treasure it. She wasn’t wrong and I’ve since bought many more copies to pass on to others. This is a huge novel, with the story taking place over decades, following the lives of an oddball family, the Berrys. At times the plot seems unrealistic and almost ridiculous. But it works and I was captivated by it. Irving is a genius: he creates extraordinary characters and his writing is funny, beautiful, and lyrical.

In our teens and twenties, my brother and I bonded over the works of John Irving. It’s hard to name a favorite, but The Hotel New Hampshire is certainly right up there. Perhaps it’s Irving’s trademark humor and unconventional plotting, or the unnaturally close relationship between siblings John and Franny, or the memorable quotations sprinkled throughout (“Sorrow floats,” “Keep passing the open windows”), but Irving’s fifth novel will always have a special place in my heart.

John Irving has written so many amazing books, but this is one of my favourites. The narrator, John Berry, seems relatively normal, but his family is about as eccentric as they come. They not only attend a private school in New Hampshire but also run a hotel in a former girls’ school nearby. Moving to Vienna, their lives are touched by tragedy, but the remaining family members “keep passing the open windows” and find their own kinds of happiness. A lovely, tragic, funny, heartbreaker of a book.

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