The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
"The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving is a deeply moving and thought-provoking novel that explores the themes of family, love, and tragedy in a way that is both engaging and immersive. The novel is set in various locations spanning from New Hampshire to Vienna and follows the lives of the Berry family, with a focus on the youngest member, John Berry.
The novel begins with John reminiscing about his childhood and his family's life at the Hotel New Hampshire, a hotel that his father, Win Berry, purchases after losing his post as a high school English teacher due to a scandalous incident with a female student. The Berry family, consisting of Win, his wife Mary, and their children, Frank, Franny, John, Lilly, and Egg, move to the hotel and begin a new chapter in their lives.
The hotel becomes a symbol of hope and a fresh start for the family as they engage in various activities to make it a success. The first part of the book focuses on the family's life at the hotel and their interactions with the hotel's staff and guests. It also introduces the family's complicated relationships, particularly the incestuous attraction between John and his sister, Franny. Irving tackles this theme throughout the book, and it is a crucial element in the family's tragedy.
In the second part of the book, the Berry family moves to Vienna, where Win takes a job as a teacher at an international school. The family's life in Vienna is marred by tragedy, including the rape of Franny, which leads to her pregnancy, and the death of Lilly, who is killed in a terrorist attack. These events take a toll on the family, particularly on John, who struggles to come to terms with his sister's trauma and his own complex feelings towards her.
In the third part of the book, the family moves back to the United States, and Win decides to turn the Hotel New Hampshire into a school for bears. The family's life at the hotel takes a dark turn as they become involved with a radical animal rights group, ultimately leading to the hotel's destruction. This part of the book explores themes of activism, extremism, and the destructive consequences of pursuing a cause at all costs.
The final part of the book deals with the aftermath of the hotel's destruction and the family's attempt to move on from their tragic past. John, who has become a successful writer, reflects on his family's life and the lessons he has learned. The novel ends on a note of hope, as John comes to a deeper understanding of his family's complicated dynamics and finds a way to move forward.
Irving's writing style is rich and descriptive, and his characters are well-developed and relatable. The book's plot is full of twists and turns, and the various settings add depth and complexity to the story. "The Hotel New Hampshire" is a complex and multi-layered novel that explores the complexities of family relationships, the enduring power of love, and the devastating consequences of tragedy.