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Hotel Honolulu
Paul Theroux
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Hotel Honolulu

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  1,700 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
11 cassettes, approx. 15' 45".
Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published 2002 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published April 1st 2001)
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(showing 1-30)
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I started out really enjoying this book with its colorful locale and offbeat characters. The protagonist is a stranger coming to grips with a strange land--a middle-aged writer from the mainland who leaves behind his family and old life to start over in obscurity in Hawaii and ends up managing a second-rate hotel. The stories he tells about the people he encounters are by turns funny and tragic, and often a little twisted, which was good. Then they became really twisted, and then ultimately quit ...more
Nov 29, 2009 emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two real issues here: repetitiveness and the ladies.

See, Paul Theroux had a great idea here: 1 story per room for the dissipated Hotel Honolulu. The problem, though, was that he maybe didn't actually have 88 separate stories to write about it. Instead, we get a half-dozen stories relating to women who were once sexually abused and then became prostitutes, another three or four of Buddy Hamsa telling not-quite-true stories about his sexual exploits, and a couple based entirely on dialect. While M
Alex Tsiatsos
I strongly disliked this book. It chronicles a middled-aged mainlander's career as the manager of a lower-status Honolulu hotel and is written in as a series of artificially short, episodic "just so" stories. The only characters who were not intentionally repulsive were pretentious and annoying. Locals were described as stupid and mute so often by characters that it was hard for the reader to draw any other conclusion. There was no need for the author to make so much of the multiple episodes of ...more
Jan 20, 2009 Oceana2602 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german, male-writers, 2010


"really twisted, and then ultimately quite perverse"


"self-described (or narrator-described, alternately) coconut princess beach bunnies" (referring Theroux's description of women)

"over-sexualized misadventures with some seriously unappealing people"

"don't bother if you think you'll be getting any insight into local Hawaiian culture, the people, the history, etc"

These are just a few quotes from the reviews about this book that can be found on this site. And yes, I say!
Nov 27, 2010 Yoonmee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, hawaii
I had to force myself to finish this book just so I could write a review and give it a rating. Ugh. There's only so much I can read about the sex, scandal, rumors, etc. of boring people. Another reviewer noted that this reads too much like a middle-aged man's masturbatory fantasy with sordid sex stories, older men dominating younger women (generally white men w/ younger women of color), murder, mystery, etc. Not only that, but the portrayal of the locals in Hawaii was somewhat insulting. All the ...more
So, I picked up this book, thinking, well, I'm not expecting too much from this, since it's written by a Haole, who is not from the Islands, but it could be interesting. The premise was promising, and I happened to have another book by the author on my shelf, strangely, but also unread. So, I picked it up. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing, and the stories drew me in, but that was just schadenfreude on my part, I do believe. I like the way the author writes; he has good flow and the hote ...more
Jul 19, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, hawaii
This book is often described as a modern-day Canterbury Tales, evidently because it's a collection of travelers' stories and there's a hotel involved. Other than that, it's a meaningless comparison.

The unnamed narrator of Hotel Honolulu is a once successful novelist who, no longer writing, has taken a job as the general manager of a second-class hotel located a few blocks from Waikiki Beach. Married to Sweetie, a hapa haole hotel maid, he's the father of young Rose and the son-in-law of the hote
Black Heart
Read mainly during a stint scoring Hawaii Math at one of the country's top education testing facilities, Paul Theroux's Hotel Honolulu provided a nice counterpoint to the terribly misguided papers I was reading for 8 hours a day.

I am contractually bound to keep my scoring gigs confidential, so I'll say no more. Suffice to say that after this particular gig, it was readily apparent to me that Hawaiian students--much like Texan students--are either very poorly educated or simply don't bother to pe
Mar 09, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Richly, positively, unpleasantly scabrous in its detail of lives in and around a Waikiki hotel - just an avalanche of lustrated noise. There are 80 short chapters here, mostly intertwined short stories with a couple of longer strings on a few key characters, including the narrator, who is alarmingly similar to Theroux himself. Includes riffs on such unpalatable topics as older men with "coconut princesses" and other unhealthy obsessions. Many of the characters are repetitive, some of the stories ...more
Apr 01, 2010 Stefani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: exotic-travel
I really like Paul Theroux's style of writing-his characters are, on the surface, equal parts successful, boastful, satisfied with their state in life, but underneath it all, there seems to be an uncertainty, a deep unhappiness and unrequited desire that begs to be satiated in a foreign place, free of leering eyes and judgements. I find it interesting that he picked Hawaii, as it stands in people's minds as a placid, if non-eventful, paradise on earth. A largess of natural beauty but devoid of c ...more
Apr 13, 2010 Dpdwyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The conceit: a disillusioned writer (who incidentally shares many historical facts with the author) moves to Hawaii and takes on managing a small Waikiki hotel that has seen better days. Each chapter relates a story about a guest or staff member. Theroux is often cynical and his characterizations can be blunt, cartoonish, and unflattering. Yet the individuals come alive and it’s not hard to see Theroux’s underlying compassion for everyone, himself included. From my experience (eleven years in Ho ...more
Jun 03, 2011 Tracy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
I tried to get through this book, but I ended up putting it down with about 100 pages to go. I felt like I was forcing myself to read. The characters were stereotypical and the chapters seemed to be written for shock value more than anything else.
Oct 09, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
damn it.
Dan Burnstein
Jan 08, 2010 Dan Burnstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I sometimes find Theroux's writing annoying but not this time - highly recommend Hotel Honolulu for its insights on the characters who live in this B-Hotel in Honolulu that the writer appears to be managing but, as he points out, really manages him. Here is a review by a better writer than I:

''Hotel Honolulu,'' Theroux's new novel, deals with the theme of the near other in a different way. Inhabiting an alter ego with suspiciously familiar biographical markings, Theroux pulls certain of his prev
Nov 05, 2016 Alastair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theroux is one of my favourite writers, let's get that out there. His fiction is best when dispassionately observing the human condition. I loved the premise of the book, writer who is suffering from writer's block or maybe just doesn't want to write anymore, escapes from the 'mainland' to Hawaii and takes a low paid job as the hotel manager sure that nobody will have read or be interested in his body of work. The novel tells the story of the hotel, staff, current and past residents. Characters ...more
Rita O'Connell
Jun 04, 2017 Rita O'Connell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theroux is a favorite author: O-Zone. This book reads like a collection of short stories, centered around guests, employees, the owner and visitors to a B-class Honolulu hotel. The stories are dark, funny, fascinating at times, and really have something for everyone. My personal fave was "Brudda Iz," about, who else? Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who was a "calabash cousin" of the hotel janitor. Really delightful except I get sick of authors who perpetuate the stories of old farts who marry young women ...more
Normally I can stomach Paul Theroux's curmudgeonliness, but not in this case. Okay, well, I read most of the book - the stories do grab your attention! Paul Theroux has some seriously crazy sexual fantasies. But ultimately, the entertaining sexual anecdotes got old, Paul Theroux got too racist, and 2/3rd of the way through the book, I was not invested in the characters like I am with a good book. So I left it in the airbnb in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a city where some pour soul might just be bored eno ...more
Laurel Deloria
Amusing overlong view of Hawaii and Hawaiians-
Amazon says
In this wickedly satiric romp, Paul Theroux captures the essence of Hawaii as it has never been depicted. The novel's narrator, a down-on-his-luck writer, escapes to Waikiki and soon finds himself the manager of the Hotel Honolulu, a low-rent establishment a few blocks off the beach. Honeymooners, vacationers, wanderers, mythomaniacs, soldiers, and families all check in to the hotel. Like the Canterbury pilgrims, every guest has come in se
3.5 ??
There's only one reason why I picked this book to read. I hoped it would take place in Hawaii. I didn't even look to be sure that it was.

Our protagonist is a writer who has lost his way in life. His previous success and fortunes are now gone. He needs a change. Possibly a place where he can start anew.

He somehow crosses the path of a man named Buddy who owns the Hotel Honolulu. "Buddy Hamstra was a big, blaspheming, doggy-eyed man in drooping shorts, a wheezy smoker and heavy drinker. His
Sep 18, 2016 konami rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
meh. started off interesting but turned raunchy and degrading to women characters. I hurried through only out of curiosity to find out what became of Buddy. (Hurried through meaning I skipped many of the stories because I found them to be disturbing and offensive).
Dec 15, 2013 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hawaii is the place to visit. It's exotic and beautiful and at the top of most everyone's travel wish list. But, in this book, you get to see a different side of Hawaii, a side that showcases the seedy underbelly and raw reality of life. A writer, disillusioned with life, packs up everything, travels to Hawaii, becomes involved, gets married, has a child, and finds himself trapped albiet willingly and needing to find a new career. Managing a hotel seems easy and he begins a new journey. When we ...more
Sep 17, 2007 Julianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I have yet to finish this book. (I have a horrible tendency to read 2-4 books simultaneously. No wonder I retain so little about these books that I read for pleasure. Oops.) However, I'm close--only 100 pages from the end.

Thus far, I've really enjoyed this book. It's a fast read (started it two days ago when faced with a weekend of gray skies and the tap-tap of rain outside the window), entertaining, chock full of individualistic and creatively portrayed characters. Having never read Ther
Apr 06, 2015 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The sentences in Hotel Honolulu grab a reader by the eyeballs and force their brain to work in unexpected ways. Paul Theroux has a love of ideas and his sentences highlight these magnificently. However, strung into paragraphs, pages, and chapters, the ideas fall apart under the weight of the book's flaws. There is not one lovable character to keep a reader going, not even one remotely likable character to redeem the other bastards in the book. In fact, most of the cast are bigots, misogynists, r ...more
Jun 15, 2008 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because it was one of a few recommended in a Lonely Planet guide to Oahu intended to give an accurate flavor of life in Hawaii. That it did offer. I enjoyed the book, which was the story of a writer who in his fifties found himself managing a mid-market high rise in Waikiki mostly because he impressed the owner with the fact that he had written a book. Throughout the book I envisioned the hotel owner character as a person I had worked for years ago - an Japanese American raised ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Katrin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In many short chapters that work as little stories in themselves, the first person narrator, a still well-known writer, tells us about his relocation to Honolulu, Hawai'i, where he doesn't write anymore, but runs a rather shabby (in comparison) hotel: the Hotel Honolulu. A lot of local folklore comes into play - some eccentric American or Japanese guests at the hotel; the no less eccentric owner of the hotel, Buddy; the city of Honolulu and the rest of the island of Oahu, and very often the Hawa ...more
Jan 20, 2013 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is only the second fiction work I've read by Theroux. It is a cynical tragicomedy set in Hawaii, where Theroux is a part-time resident. (His grasp of Hawaiian pidgin is masterful.) Using a shabby hotel as his base, he tells the mostly sorry tales of its residents a la "Canterbury Tales." Apparently, for many tourists, "What happens in Hawaii, stays in Hawaii," just like Vegas. I liked how Theroux tears apart the island paradise fantasy. Sex is a constant theme in all of its worst manifestat ...more
Aug 14, 2010 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book because I was going to be vacationing in Hawaii and I wanted to read books set in Hawaii. This book was fun. It was a collection of the stories of people who lived or worked at the Hotel Honolulu. All the stories were in one way or another about or connected to "Buddy Hanstra" the hotel owner. The stories were told by
writer suffering from writer's block who escapes to Honolulu and finds himself the manager of the Hotel Honolulu. A place where people not only visit short term, b
John Minx
Jun 12, 2012 John Minx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jaded, haggard men

Theroux shows his spurs here with a very tricky fictional proposition: the linked series of vignettes. A lot of the time when reading a book like this - which falls somewhere between the novel form and a series of stand alone short stories - you're left with the feeling that it's less than the sum of its parts. But not with this book. Instead it builds nicely and uses all the cumulative detail to great effect.
The central premise is unusual and charming as well - long time author packs in the wri
Joanna Griffith
May 30, 2009 Joanna Griffith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading Theroux's fiction and non-fiction because they both manage to carry his totally un-PC observations of human nature and culture without being overtly offensive. I picked up Hotel Honolulu in anticipation of my upcoming move to the island. Even though it is fiction, I couldn't help but believing in his descriptions of Hawaii's rawness and paradoxical nature. It is written in short story format with plot lines that interweave through the other stories. I appreciated this aspect of th ...more
May 21, 2012 Asae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Hotel Honolulu has 80 rooms and the novel 80 stories - many which interlock, all of which are short. There is sex, death, family, and gossip. The sex makes for many of the books most difficult moments. There is some passion and some tenderness, even some love, but more often there is degradation, humiliation, and manipulation, if not outright abuse (there's some of that, as well). Indeed, there are few female characters who are not in some way prostitutes and few men who are not on some leve ...more
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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“He was serene, fulfilled, the real thing, the person no one wants to hear about, a happy man.” 3 likes
“The saddest task for the ironist is having to tell the listener that it's a joke, because of course it is never a joke.” 0 likes
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