The award-winning author ofA Girl Is a Half-formed Thing and The Lesser Bohemians returns with a book about grief, travel, and female loneliness narrated by an unnamed middle-aged woman from a series of hotel rooms around the world.
The accretion of detail, of nuance, of language are at the heart of McBride’s work. And Strange Hotel, her third book, is a powerful demonstration of her ability to marshal words to peerless effect ... This first section is rich in suspense, confidently cut through with an absurd humour ... McBride cleverly drip-feeds information, rounding out her character, probing her damaged self and exploring what might have caused her to be roaming the world’s hotels, engaging in an endless stream of one-night stands ... the simplicity of the tale belies the deep psychological complexity it explores ... McBride’s fractured, fluid indirect style captures the newness of past events, constantly alive in the mind ... The language is...tortured—if exquisitely deployed ... Once inside the discursive thought process of this woman, her sadness, trauma, loneliness and grief come fully alive ... Strange Hotel is a finely controlled, complex and emotionally absorbing novel that manages to burrow deep into the heart of something essential about the human experiences of love and loss. That’s quite an achievement in so short a work.
Strange Hotel records an exhausting fictional itinerary of nights ... the prose is also a little simpler than in McBride’s previous work. It’s still full of its own lexical and grammatical idiosyncrasies ... but this voice is that of a speaker for whom ‘a good old linguistic knot’ no longer seems the adequate medium, and who finds herself searching for ‘other configurations’ to organise her experiences ... These are interior pieces, both in their setting and in their compelling transcription of a mind examining itself, its surroundings, its past, its processes of self-reflection and self-deception ... they seem merely fragments of a world, the observer of which has become, or wishes to become, indifferent to such possibilities of connection ... There is a certain satisfaction here, albeit of a slightly clinical, psychoanalytic kind: by revisiting the scene of trauma, the damaged psyche is able to repair itself, to resume a healthier form of connection with the rest of the world and with its own desires.
... a novel as tightly wound as its predecessor was exuberant. McBride seems to be testing how much can be communicated within a radically restricted structure ... Her subject matter has shades of Dorothy Allison’s domestic Gothic; Anna Burns and Kristen Roupenian are among her contemporary fellow travelers. But she is distinct from all of them in offering a frank, unsentimental, and serious treatment of women’s sexual experience—and in placing it at the center of her novels ... To say that McBride writes experimental novels in stream-of-consciousness style does not capture the wreckage her sentences inflict on the English language. Lines break off mid-phrase, punctuation is percussive, shorthand locutions substitute for exposition ... the first of McBride’s novels to be written in the third person, but it is no less intimately observed. The woman at the center watches herself with the attention of a hunter stalking prey ... Still, there is something odd about the way her thoughts are presented. We see her up close but also at a remove; it can be hard to work out exactly what she’s up to ... All the woman’s actions are described with minute physicality, but in an analytical language that tamps down even the possibility of feeling, as if she is directly restricting access to emotion ... In Strange Hotel, in which writing about sex becomes a way of expressing both intimacy and its absence, the opposite of love might be grief, despair’s close cousin, and the novel’s true story is the journey from the bottom of that grief back to love.