I received an Advance Readers’ Copy of this book. It will be on sale May 5, 2020. All opinions are my own.
This is a strange little book. If you’ve read Eimear McBride before that might not surprise you. (And if you haven’t previously read McBride I probably wouldn’t recommend starting with this one.)
In less than 150 pages we follow an unnamed woman through five hotel rooms. Five different cities. Some hotels that she’s visited before and some she hasn’t. She’s somewhere in middle age though the hotel visits progress through time. There is a sadness in her past, a lost that becomes clearer as we follow her. Not wanting to give too much away it’s hard to say much about what this book is about.
Perhaps it’s more of a character study than anything else. There is almost no plot to speak of, only slightly in the final section do we get a bigger picture of this woman’s life outside of hotel rooms or a hint of present drama. Instead this is a glimpse into the mind and habits of a woman reeling from loss, a woman searching for something that remains opaque to the reader. Something that she herself doesn’t even quite understand.
I’ve read only one book previously by McBride, The Lesser Bohemians, and it was tempting for me to read Strange Hotel as some sort of unorthodox sequel. I’m not sure if that is McBride’s intention or not; the book itself certainly works as a stand-alone although it won’t be for every reader. While the style of writing here isn’t the stream-of-consciousness featured in McBride’s other work, it isn’t entirely straightforward either. Like The Lesser Bohemians, it wasn’t a book that was easy for me to dip in and out of. Here again McBride plays with language, making unexpected connections, and continuously forcing the reader to look closer, look again.
As I found before with reading McBride, she makes the reader work but the pay-off is worthwhile. If you’ve read and enjoyed her other writing then Strange Hotel is for you. If you are new to McBride, I would recommend her but start elsewhere.