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Hotel World

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  2,480 ratings  ·  219 reviews
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A finalist for the Booker Award in 2001, Ali Smith's fiction debut is a truly inventive narrative that is told through the voices of a handful of different characters. Among them is the 19-year-old hotel chambermaid Sara Wilby, who, in a fleeting moment of terrible imprudence, wagered a coworker that she could fit her entire bod
Paperback, 236 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by Hamish Hamilton (first published 2001)
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Sophie Murray I want to say the winter of 1999. It's not really relevant, though. No current events are mentioned.
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MJ Nicholls
Another astonishing piece of work from Ms. Smith. Is there anything this writer can’t do? I have domestic duties and a rumbling stomach at present, so this review might be brief, and gushing. But here goes.

I love Ali Smith. I love Ali Smith because she moves me, and being a man, I’m not supposed to be moved by books. I’m supposed to be stirred by the raging masculinity of men in battle: the sound of gunfire in the crisp Vienna air as heads rain down upon the blood-soaked streets. But no. This pi
Lynne King
The fall occurs at dawn.
Albert Camus

If I had not read MJ’s excellent review (, I would never have purchased this book as firstly, I had never heard of the author and secondly, this didn’t sound like my type of book at all. That’s the “problem” with Goodreads; there is too much choice and I seem to be continuously stumbling across new authors.

All one can possibly do in my case is to compare my purchase with a rather prized sweet in the sweet shop and to
February 2013
hooooooo what a fall what a soar what a plummet what a dash into dark into light what a plunge what a glide thud crash what a drop what a rush what a swoop what a fright what a mad hushed skirl what a smash mush mash-up broke and gashed what a heart in my mouth what an end.
What a life.
What a time.
What I felt. Then. Gone.
(Hotel World, p. 3)

Four girls, one cup ghost. Sara died in a dumbwaiter while working at a Global Hotel, Clare is her sister, Lise works reception, Else be
Jul 04, 2014 Paul rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the author's mother
Shelves: novels
Ali Smith gets a lot of love from the reviewers (the real ones, not us hobbledehoys lurking under our Goodreads rock). She likes to be experimental. Or she does in this novel, anyway. Unfortunately "experimental" techniques provoke the train-spotter in me. Oh, I say to myself, there's some James Joyce. And here's Virginia Woolf. A soupcon of B S Johnson, and - yes ma'am - a nod to Donald Barthelme. Ali Smith drags in some heavy comparisons, thereby, and doesn't do herself any favours. This there ...more
A character in Hotel World talks of manipulating people with stories. She'll tell lies to them about her life, stories designed to evoke sympathy and pity: she is an orphan, she was neglected by her parents, she was sexually abused by a family friend. The stories are tearjerkers, tropes designed to pull the heartstrings. Someone tells you a story like that and, unless you have no heart, you have to say, "Oh my god! How horrible for you!"

Well, my problem with Hotel World was that it felt exactly
Bought this at the Strand on my heartbreak tour of NYC 2002. I enjoyed the fluid presence, the floating questions of motive, most of which were left unanswered. There is something spectral about these damaged souls. While walking in London eight months later, I found myself glimpsing those souls' reflections.
Death by Dumbwaiter........."Woo-hooooooo"

Sara Wilby's tragic death, spiralling down in a dumbwaiter, begins with the voice of Sara's 'gossamer ghost'.
We see her desperate to understand what just happened.
Her death affects other women bound up in this rather curious ghost tale. And then each, in turn, relates their personal story.

Hotel World is a story of the power of time, how quickly time can turn us from living to dead, sane to mad, happy to sad, secure to homeless, rich to poor, healthy t
The lives of five women intersect at a hotel in an unnamed English city. This is the kind of book for which the term literary fiction was invented: Smith is totally getting her Virginia Woolf on, with steam-of-consciousness being just the tip of the iceberg. There were parts that I found really quite moving—the opening section is told from the point of view of a ghost, and I am sucker for stuff like that—but often I found all the stylistic fanfare frustrating. After a certain point, it makes me ...more
N W James
The plus side is that its probably my favorite book that's even been on the Booker Prize short list.

The bad side is that's not saying much.

Let me just start with 31 pages of unpunctuated stream of conscience writing. I was actually going along all right until I hit that character's chapter. I lasted three pages and skipped to the end. If I wanted to read something that was supposed to just alter my emotions, I'd read poetry. Just tell me the frickin story.

Then the last chapter was this nebulous
I'm not sure what happened here. I really liked two stories, the first and the last one. I especially loved past, with Sara's ghost having a conversation with her corpse in their (?) casket, which was hella creepy but at the same time kind of wonderful and definitely memorable.

The middle stories ranged from boring to frustrating. I fell asleep a few times, especially while reading the story of Sara's sister, who seems to think that punctuation is for losers. It was quite frustrating to read her
The second book I've read in a month which has been set in a hotel. Not so much a novel as a collection of five interlinked short stories, each with a connection to the 'Global Hotel'.

The five stories tell the stories of the ghost of a woman who dies when she falls four stories having clambered into a dumbwaiter in the hotel, a homeless woman begging outside the hotel, the receptionist at the hotel who arranges a bed for the night in the hotel for the homeless woman, a jobbing hack journalist, w
Sophie Murray
I honestly have no idea why I chose to read this book. It was described as "experimental" - simply another word for "pretentious," I thought - and I really do not care for stream of consciousness. Or so I thought, before I found myself swept up into Hotel World.

If the first chapter were a painting, it would be one of those swirly Impressionist things. The narrator is the ghost of Sara Whilby, a teenage chambermaid who died in a bizarre accident. She longs for any sort of sensation, even a stone
Phillip Edwards


is how this book starts.

The opening depicts the thoughts of nineteen-year-old chambermaid Sara Wilby as she plummets - and after she has plummeted - four floors down to her death inside a dumb waiter at the hotel where she works.

The events of that fateful night are presented from five different viewpoints, one by one, like five interconnected short stories:

Firstly Sarah, recalling her final memories as they slowly fade; then Else, a homeless person begging on the street out
Cheyenne Blue
Ali Smith, you've done it again.

I should know by now. I read your stories, I see the care you've taken with your words, how you build you characters. I see the deliberate literary styling, and I nod along, thinking that I enjoy your books, but I don't enjoy them that much, as there's a slowness, a stillness to your writing that fools me into thinking I'm not invested.

And then I get to, oh, maybe two thirds of the way through, and I think I'll put the book down, try something else, because it's n
Gotta' say, this book dragged on, for me.

I picked Hotel World up upon my partner's suggestion; and no offense intended towards my partner, but the book read, in my opinion, like it was written for a pubescent audience of white suburban nihilists.

The plot winds around the intersecting lives of a few characters, with alternating protagonists. Throughout the story, the reader has a hazy, fly-on-the-wall perspective, which is freshly executed, if nothing else. Still, by the end of the novel, I was
Marc Nash
I ended up being a bit ho-hum about this. 5 dislocated female voices all linked in to the same chain hotel where a bizarre accident has claimed the life of the first voice, hovering as an unreconciled ghost. Whiel all 5 voices were genuinely different from one another, all were a tad similar in their being deracinated: the dead girl, a homeless waif, a journalist/writer who can't settle to anything and craves fresh experiences, the bereaved sister and the hotel's alienated receptionist. There is ...more
How do you rate a book that's technically beautiful and presents five distinct voices but you don't enjoy reading it? I had an argument with my partner about this. He said, 'You don't like it. Rate it a 1 or a 2.' But I couldn't bring myself to do it. The words were engrossing and interesting. Yet I kept checking the pages to see if it was over soon and how close I was to finishing it. Can you praise a book and at the same time wish you had read something else out of your huge to-read pile inste ...more
This was a tough one. Comparisons to Woolf have been made by reviewers because of all the stream-of-consciousness, of course, but there was also something distinctly Dalloway-ish about the beginning -- "What a lark!" -- and the scene in Lise's story where the birds repeat the words from television commercials.

The really solid, excellent parts were the first, fifth & sixth parts, directly pertaining to the ghost, and part of me is irritated that the middle parts were there at all because Smit
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one. I feel like there was a lot of sadness and darkness in this slim volume and yet I was reminded again and again that life goes on. This novel is haunted by ghosts, both the living and the dead and I still come back to the refrain, "Remember you must live." The voices of the women are distinct and provide all too brief glimpses as they converge one night at the significantly named Global Hotel. I found Sara, Else, and Lise to be the most affecting. ...more
Well now, what to say, what to say...

I liked this book. Ali Smith likes to toy with language and I enjoyed that. This is certainly not the best story ever told, but it is interesting and it suited me just fine.
It's not a speed read, and its not a stunning work of brilliance,
there is a term I sometimes use, brain candy, to describe books you can finish in about two hours, your typical Nora Roberts, for example. Interchangeable plots, characters, etc. but easy and fun.
Hotel World is a differe
Ali Smith definitely knows how to make her wounds blossom.

Describing the main character of “Hotel World” I would say that it is like Sally in the “Nightmare before Christmas”. However, in this particular case there is no Christmas; no Halloween; and no Jack.

Ali Smith’ prose is strong, witty and, first and foremost, deeply allegoric.Reading between the lines you can clearly hear some middle-class parents saying to their young daughter ‘you are dead to us’. But why? Well, you have to read the book
Terry Clague
I had something of a mini-existential crisis reading this book - why wasn't I enjoying it when all the evidence suggests it's really very good indeed?

I think the overriding factor behind my lack of enjoyment is expectations management. The book is a collection of short stories, but since they're "connected" by being set around a hotel, they're not labelled as such. Now, I really don't like short stories (unless they're on the back page of my mum's Bella magazine or I've written them myself). I d
Elaine Ruth Boe
Wow. Ali Smith is one sharp writer. Her writing is so tight, every word of a section bounces off the words of the other sections. The first section will start out a little confusing, but the style (my favorite aspect of the book) and the tragedy of a girl's fatal fall down a broken dumbwaiter will soon draw you in. Each section of the text has a unique voice, and Smith makes the characters so real that you want to cry over some characters and slap some sympathy into others. I actually did cry in ...more
This isn't a novel. It's a collection of six stories loosely associated with one event and one location. In the great world of literature I'm not sure if it really merits three stars, but I gave it three to acknowledge the author's effort to insert some sophistication in the work by attempting to capture six distinct voices. Her attempt to say something profound about death, dying, and the survival of the spirit left me cold.
Yasnani Yassin
I love the writing style. The first chapter really captures my heart to continue reading. Mainly because of the rhymes and the sound it produced when I read the lines out loud. Simply remarkable. As of for the different voices, I think Mr Smith has done some decent job too. There are a lot of uniqueness in each voices and I love it. Each voice/character stood out for me. I didn't give this book a five star because there is something lack in the storyline. Not sure where the climax is, and the re ...more
Feels like experimental writing. It could have gone very badly. But clearly didn’t. I did enjoy the reading of it – the emotion and grip it exerts is pretty strong - but it’s just too deliberately obscure for my true taste – too many questions unanswered or obscured by the difficult styles. It will be appreciated most by other writers who are enthralled by inventiveness – especially those writers who judge prizes and write reviews. But for me it fails in one main area – that it isn’t good commun ...more
Thiago Zro
incrível! se tornou um dos livros preferidos das minhas últimas leituras. ali consegue amarrar num mesmo fio condutor a história de cinco mulheres diferentes, com cinco narrativas dissonantes, contando, em cada uma, com um fluxo de pensamento próprio a cada personagem. o livro começa divertido, com uma fantasma questionando o exato momento de sua morte para sua própria cadáver (enterrada no cemitério), vai aos poucos criando uma tensão algo triste para terminar de forma melancólica, costurando t ...more
I liked it, but not nearly as good as most of her other books.

I did enjoy this book, although not enough to give it fours stars. It was nearly there for me though. It is split into six parts, five of those parts are first person narratives of five different people and the sixth is the closure. Each section has a different style of writing and the voices do stand out from one another. My issues were probably just personal. I do think this is a very good book.


I did like all of the characters however, with each one there was a new writing s
Jason Bosworthick
Originally I like this book and gave it 4*. But on reflection I found myself disliking this more and more. Don't get me wrong, the story is quite good and gripping but there is something in Smith's writing that sinks in as being irritating. For me there is just an element of...urgh...about it!

The story revolves around 5 protagonists who all have interaction with the book's central theme: a hotel. Each chapter is a different character and each chapter has a different style of writing to symbolise
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Ali Smith is a writer, born in 1962 in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and ho ...more
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“There is a kind of poetry, bad and good, in evrything, everywhere we look.” 13 likes
“remember you must live.
remember you most love.
remainder you mist leaf.”
More quotes…