The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
John, the middle son of the Berry family, narrates the story of his family and the three hotels (all called the Hotel New Hampshire) they own through the years. The book starts with the romance of John’s parents in the early forties and the book ends in the late seventies. Through the story the five Berry children face the joys and pains of life.
The eccentric family and the lighthearted style of the storytelling made me think the book would be very different than it was. This is my first Irving book, and after reading some reviews, if I was a fan I would have been better prepared. This book is tragic. The gang rape of one of the Berry’s, and her life dealing with the emotional turmoil of the rape, is the central storyline of the book. However there are other bleak storylines: the unrest after World War II in Vienna (the location of the Second New Hampshire Hotel), a woman so defeated by her ugly appearance she hides away from the world as a beast, and a small woman who just wants to grow in any way possible. Love and violence go hand in hand in all their lives. Death is also around every turn of the page. The family unit of eight we grow comfortable with is diminished by four by the end of the book.
While I enjoyed the writing style, the lightness of the tone was the only reason I could finish this sorrow full tale. One line will stay with me: You have to keep passing the open windows. However, I think this will be my first and last Irving novel.