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The Hotel New Hampshire

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  45,381 Ratings  ·  1,246 Reviews
“The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times ...more
Paperback, 520 pages
Published October 22nd 1982 by Black Swan (first published 1981)
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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John IrvingThe World According to Garp by John IrvingThe Cider House Rules by John IrvingA Widow for One Year by John IrvingThe Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Best of John Irving
5th out of 16 books — 286 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Best Books of the 20th Century
469th out of 6,428 books — 43,451 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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If you haven't read Irving yet, I think you should give him a try. This novel isn't one of his "big three", but it's damn good.

First off, most Irving novels have some general characteristics:

- They typically have a Dickensian plot, in which you follow the characters through large portions of their lives. The breadth of the novel typically goes through one generational span, but often you'll get (at least) a few beginning chapters detailing the lives of the protagonist's parents or grandparents,
Henry Avila
Win(slow)Berry , is a dreamer, never satisfied with life, as it is. Always wanting to climb over the hill, to see, what's on the other side. It will always be better, over there! His single father, Bob(Coach Bob), his wife died, giving birth to Win. The football coach, at the pep school, in Dairy, New Hampshire. Called unimaginatively, the Dairy School. A second rate institution, for boys, thrown out of superior ones. Or not even able to get in them, in the first place. Without the school, the s ...more
The Hotel New Hampshire: John Irving's Fairy Tale of Life


"A dream is fulfillment of a wish."--The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

One of the benefits of having your favorite professor of psychology as your next door neighbor is learning that he is a very widely read man. We are an odd pair, I suppose. He is 76. I am 59. But through the years we have known one another we have become best friends. We frequently exchange books the other has not read.

It is safe to say that Howard is fond o
May 25, 2009 Dave rated it it was amazing
"So we dream on. Thus we invent our lives. We give ourselves a sainted mother, we make our father a hero; and someone's older brother, and someone's older sister - they become our heroes, too. We invent what we love, and what we fear. There is always a brave, lost brother - and a little lost sister, too. We dream on and on; the best hotel, the perfect family, the resort life. And our dreams escape us almost as vividly as we can imagine them."

I have started writing this review four, five times? I
Aug 25, 2008 Schmacko rated it liked it
(This was the first book of my new book club).

John Irving is one of America’s great writers. Happy Days was one of America’s most popular television shows. (Don’t worry this will make sense later)

Happy Days was beloved, but everyone knows there was one episode where everything seems to start to go downhill for Fonzie and the kids; it was the episode where Fonzie drove his motorcycle over a ramp and jumped a shark. Now the phrase “jumped the shark” is utilized for that point whenever anything goe
Dec 15, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
To describe the plotline of The Hotel New Hampshire to a questioning would-be reader is to realize that you’ve been enthralled with a plot that is, at its core, rather silly. Circus bears and run-down hotels, plane crashes (so silly!) and midgets, botched taxidermy and obsessive weight-lifting – these are what Irving novels are made of. This was an undeniably fun read that I sped through, and I picked up another Irving (A Widow for One Year) as soon as I was done (I just can’t get enough). It wi ...more
Jul 31, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Awesome book. I had never read Irving before, and I have no idea why not. He's like that Deli that you always drive by but never go into, then one day decide "what the hell" and it turns out to have the best pastrami sandwich you've ever had in your life.

Anyway, the story revolves around an unusual family growing up and learning about sex, sports, love, death, failure, success, etc etc. It's quirky and funny and strange - Irving has a knack for finding little bits of truth in truly bizarre situ
May 15, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i've probably read this 10 times now. i went through a john irving phase, and i ODed about half-way through. (140lb marriage is a terrible book, btw. don't do it).

but this is one of my favorite books. it would be desert island number three, but it's a little too sad... i don't think it would be a good idea to isolate myself with it on an island to read again and again for eternity. that said, it's irving at his best. anyone who can take a family involved in incest and abuse and prostitution and
Nov 02, 2014 Rob rated it really liked it
One of my most revelatory professional discoveries is also stupidly simple. It’s this, courtesy of Bob Probst: Reading is a selfish venture.

It is. Of course it is. I’m disappointed in myself for not realizing it earlier, because it’s a principle – probably one of the top two or three – that guides my work with pre-service English teachers, and it would’ve transformed the way I taught English in high school. I was reminded of the selfishness of the reading enterprise as I made my way through John
Aug 21, 2015 Mack rated it really liked it
This is an unusual but extremely outrageous and humourous read. I am a big fan of John Irving. It is just plain weird in parts of the story of the Berry Family as their Father aspires to own a hotel or two. There’s a lot of the unconventional issues in the plot, rape, incest, homosexuality and many more unexpected events with a bunch of lovable, quirky characters to add and nurture. It’s quite a tragic story really with family heartbreak but they know that the one thing that matters is your fami ...more
Dec 03, 2008 Deena rated it did not like it
Shelves: modern-lit, bleah
I learned never to read John Irving ever again. I'd like to give this even less than one star, if there were a way.
Nov 05, 2010 Ally rated it it was amazing
Hotel New Hampshire is that book for me. That one great book. It makes me want to go back to any other book I rated with 5 stars and lower them down at least one - because surely they do not compare to this one.

It's impossible to summarize Hotel New Hampshire and have it make sense to someone who has either not read it, or not read anything else by Irving. It contains bears, little people, taxidermy and radicals. The story has many fantastical elements - but at the core of this novel is a story
Jan 04, 2011 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: odd, usa, incest, austria
I've always known about 'Hotel New Hampshire'. I never knew what it was about but I knew there was a book. I knew there was a film too. I somehow imagined it to be something Hitchock-like mixed Last Tango In Paris. Imagine my surprise. So far there is something about a bear. I will finish this review when I am done reading.

Ok. Done reading. I don't think John Irving will ever get five stars from me. Though he is an excellent story-teller - and this is what a purpose of every novel should be - to
Jun 23, 2012 rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to rachel by: Probably everyone I have ever liked.
It was fate that this book and I would eventually converge, I think. My writing program friends from school -- namely Kyle and the girl who started the extra curricular writing group I was a part of for two years -- frequently gushed about John Irving. My bookish aunt devoured all of his older works in high school. I made an attempt to read A Widow for One Year my freshman year of college and it left me cold, for as much as I trust those tastes. I felt little drive to ever pick him up again.

August 2008

This book seems to thumb its nose at the 1-5 star rating scale, and I almost can't decide what to think of it. Five stars? Well, the first part of the novel--the First Hotel New Hampshire--is certainly worth that. Four stars? In places, yes. Three stars? The ending, in the epilogue and the Third Hotel. Two stars and one star? Jesus God, the Second Hotel, Vienna, the return of Freud--and that bear!

In a way, The Hotel New Hampshire feels partly like a companion novel to The World Accord
Alex Watkins
Apr 27, 2008 Alex Watkins rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
So far this is the weakest John Irving book I have read. His books are always crazy and slightly unbelievable, but this is the first time I didn't believe. Spoilers ahead. First off all I just didn't believe the plane death. Who travels in plans separately, did people actually do this? You drive in the same car together, going separately just doubles your risk. Plane crashes are just so unlikely that I didn't buy this for a second. I really liked Egg and Mother, but wasn't sad when they died bec ...more
Jan 23, 2009 Jessie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I recently came across a review of John Irving's work which claimed that only three of his novels are worth reading: A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Cider House Rules, and The World According to Garp. The Hotel New Hampshire, the reviewer claimed, is pretty good, but too "odd" to be considered great.

It is oddity that makes The Hotel New Hampshire worth reading (over and over). I have read The Hotel New Hampshire at least 5 times, and have found that it improves with each reading. True, the characte
Apr 04, 2015 Rosalba rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"L'estate in cui mio padre comprò l'orso, nessuno di noi era ancora nato."

Dopo aver letto “il mondo secondo Garp” ed esserne rimasta rapita, ho pensato - non senza un po' di tristezza - che nel leggere il successivo romanzo di Irving non avrei più provato le stesse intense emozioni. E invece l'Hotel (dovrei dire gli hotels) mi ha letteralmente coinvolta. Tutti i personaggi che compongono la numerosa e stramba famiglia Berry, e quelli che gli ruotano attorno, ognuno nel proprio ruolo, hanno lasci
Feb 16, 2013 Eyehavenofilter rated it it was ok
Well....let me first say that this family is probably, cray-cray even more than most. It drained my life force the entire time I was reading it. Not the first book with incest, I ever read, but certainly the most gratuitous and disturbing. It was distasteful to say the least. I felt badly for the black Lab, he got the worst treatment.. I dunno what people found endearing about this book, maybe I just didn't get it, and I'm glad I didn't.
Irving you really tried my patience with this one, I shall
Marie Lahtinen
May 30, 2011 Marie Lahtinen rated it it was ok
Disappointment. The name was promising, the author was promising.. But it took me more than one week to read it :(
Natalie Wilhelm
Feb 25, 2010 Natalie Wilhelm rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 28, 2012 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I winced, cringed, and rolled my eyes through this. The only other Irving I'd read was Garp and I absolutely adored it...until about the last third. The spell Irving had woven over me wore off and the book started to grate; this one wore out its welcome in the first hundred pages.
I can't stand the precious little phrases the characters use constantly throughout the book (what?, open windows, 464, blah, blah, blah) and the motifs from the author's other works (bears, athletic obsession, lust, ca
Sep 01, 2015 Sonya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
9/1/2015: John Irving published this novel in 1980 and I had a hardback copy. I would have been fourteen years old at the time, and there's no way I could have understood how much loss and misdirected lust drove the storyline. I didn't remember much, if anything, about the actual plot, especially the anarchists and prostitutes of Vienna. Yet I always had an abiding love for the book, like all the other Irving novels like Garp, Owen Meany, and Cider House Rules. So something in the novel's words ...more
Aug 24, 2015 Willy rated it really liked it
'Classical' John Irving book.
Has a lot in common with Garp an The Cider House Rules: casual storytelling, sympathetic characters, ...
If you like these two books, definitely read this one too.
Jan 13, 2015 Andris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Šī ir klasiska Ērvinga ģimenes sāga, izstāstot plašu posmu ģimenes vēsturē – sākot ar vecāku jaunību un beidzot ar bērnu bērnu dzimšanu. Klasisks gan jāattiecina uz vārdu „Ērvings”, nevis „ģimenes sāga”, jo lai nu kāda bet klasiska tā sāga gan nav. Tā ir kārtējā Ērvinga traģikomiskā dīvainīšu ģimene, kuru dzīvē prieki mijas ar bēdām, smiekli caur asarām un asaras caur smiekliem, viņi nonāk absurdās situācijās un dara trakas lietas, uzvar, zaudē, cieš, utt utjp . Grāmatā ir gan lācis uz motocikla ...more
It is hard to choose a rating for this book as there were things I really liked about it and things that really turned my stomach. "Like" doesn't really cut it as a rating but, well there you go.

I love the eccentric characters and the quirky, laugh-out-loud dialogue. As I noted when I read A Widow for One year, Mr. Irving is a very fine writer, better than most; however, as I also noted before, he comes across as sexually obsessed and twisted, certainly he and I are not sharing the same "family
Karl Marx S.T.
Mar 12, 2012 Karl Marx S.T. rated it really liked it
The first novel I’ve read from Irving that I considered to be one of my favorites and possibly one of his best though basically it doesn’t have any plot to start with. The novel is about the Berry’s, a quirky and bizarre family. How they lived their life full of surprises, tragedies, death and realization. It starts with the overwhelming desire of the Berry father to run a hotel and the belief that a family can survive a life living in a hotel. The Berry’s consists of the affectionate mother, (w ...more
Feb 13, 2012 Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could write like John Irving, I would be one of the happiest people in the world. He knows how to blend ridiculously surreal humor with deeply painful pathos like no other writer I know.

This chronicle of the Berry family (Father, Mother, Frank, Franny, Lilly, Egg, our protagonist, and Sorrow) and three Hotel New Hampshires takes us from 1920s New England to 1950s Vienna to 1960s New York and back to New England, from a real circus bear to a woman who feels safer pretending to be a bear, and
I'm in the process of rereading John Irving novels and I'm blown away by how much more they mean to me, a decade later. Of course I enjoyed them as a teenager but I imagine now that I'm "mature," I have a deeper understanding of Irving's nuances. What really awes me is that Irving is a consummate planner. Every little turn of phrase, every seemingly minor incident has deep meaning and affects situations down the line. His books are so pleasurably whole, giving a sense of deep satisfaction. The B ...more
Jan 02, 2008 Suede rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, and at first I did. But then they went to Vienna...and then it just got long. And confused. And I really hate to do this here, in such a public forum, but, I really think it's my duty as a goodreads do gooder...

BT, yet again your 5 star rating is WRONG. You should be ashamed of yourself. What are you doing, just clicking haphazardly on stars? Are you not taking your job here seriously? Am I going to have to ban you from reading? I think you need to take a momen
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The Bookhouse Boys: 'The Hotel New Hampshire' discussion 83 20 Oct 10, 2012 06:04PM  
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JOHN IRVING was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1942. His first novel, Setting Free the Bears, was published in 1968, when he was twenty-six. He competed as a wrestler for twenty years, and coached wrestling until he was forty-seven.
Mr. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for his novel The World According to Garp. He received an O. Henry Award
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