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.
... 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.
On the surface, the first section of Eimear McBride’s third novel, Strange Hotel, is curiously underwhelming and maddeningly evasive. Not a lot happens. Little is known. Nothing is at stake. McBride continues in this vein as her protagonist drifts through the years, visiting a series of cities and staying in a succession of hotels. But what the book withholds and how it unfolds are the keys to its success. The voyeuristic reader is invited into the woman’s room and into her mind to try to make sense of her meditations and recollections, her transactions and transgressions. The result is a novel rich with mystery, complexity and seductive charm.