The Hotel New Hampshire
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The Hotel New Hampshire

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  38,785 ratings  ·  1,089 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 — 258 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Best Books of the 20th Century
473rd out of 5,692 books — 38,096 voters


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Community Reviews

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Ben
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,...more
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
Mike
The Hotel New Hampshire: John Irving's Fairy Tale of Life

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"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...more
Dave
"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...more
Laura
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
Schmacko
(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...more
Jason
Jul 31, 2007 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Kate
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...more
Deena
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.
Jacob
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...more
Alex Watkins
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
Kinga
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...more
rachel
Jun 23, 2012 rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.

Then...more
Natalie Wilhelm
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eyehavenofilter
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...more
Willy
'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.
Jessie
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...more
Ally
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...more
Chana
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...more
Karl S.T.
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
Mitchell
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...more
Suede
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...more
Josie
I really loved this book. I found out about it through one of my social work professors in college because in the book, there is a dog named Sorrow and I was really intrigued by the symbolism that Sorrow comes to represent throughout the book. There are some sad moments as well as some unorthodox moments (uh, brotherly-sisterly love?!?!) but....aside from that, I really like this book. John Irving's writing is definitely quirky and different than most, but he is one of my favorite authors.
Jenn(ifer)
For me, it's actually four and a half stars, losing half a star for the fact that the incest factor freaked me out! And it's not as good as Garp. But I'm not sure anything could be.
Steve
The Hotel New Hampshire may have the greatest collection of wacko's I've read since A Confederacy of Dunces. The members of the Berry family are twisted and weird and make your family and mine seem normal. Yet, at the same time, there is a a binding quality to them that makes them lovable, despite (or maybe in spite of) their quirks. They are normal in their own way and seeing them grow into themselves (even Lilly) was heartwarming and entertaining....if a little disturbing at times. And what st...more
Capella
May 22, 2010 Capella added it
Shelves: gave-up-on
My interest in this book waxed and waned for the following reason:

1. The plot is zany and at times it is just odd enough to pique my interest but it inevitably got too weird to be sustained. It felt contrived to the extent that I started to wonder what the hell Irving was trying to say with the story. Whatever he was trying to say was so deeply sunk under the peculiar plot that it was hard to actually figure it out.

2. The characters, while interesting, were presented in way that made me feel v...more
Ellyn Oaksmith
If it weren't for book club I wouldn't have finished this amazing book so let's be thankful for books clubs. They might be a hotbed of gossip and sometimes you read books that seem like a total waste of time but John Irving is one of my favorite authors and this might be his best. A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules are, to me, much more accessible. They aren't, like this book, teaming with so many nuts jobs that you long for a simple, charming character. But this one, about half w...more
Sarah
I cannot believe I got all the way to my 40's without reading this book. I remember seeing it on my parents' shelves as a child, and I vaguely remember seeing one scene from the film in the 80's, but I never managed to read it until now.

Only Irving could create a plot so bizarre, implausible and uncomfortable & still manage to make it an emotional tour de force. Having read A Prayer for Owen Meany years ago, I'm struck by the fact that Irving seems to have quite a thing for dress maker form...more
Miranda Ruth
Mar 02, 2013 Miranda Ruth added it
Recommends it for: Don't really know. You'd either love or hate it.
Recommended to Miranda Ruth by: I'd rather not say
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paula
Apr 14, 2010 Paula rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: established Irving fans, not a good first Irving book
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. The World According to Garp, which won the National Book Award in 1980, was John Irving’s fourth novel and his first international bestseller; it also became a George Roy Hill film. Tony Richardson wrote and directed the adaptation for the screen of The Hotel New Hampshire (1984). Irving’s novels are now translated into thirty...more
More about John Irving...
A Prayer for Owen Meany The World According to Garp The Cider House Rules A Widow for One Year The Fourth Hand

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