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Hotel Honolulu

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  1,316 ratings  ·  135 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 15th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published April 1st 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,969)
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Jen
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
emily
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
...more
Yoonmee
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
Sparrowfall
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
Oceana2602
"seedy"

"flawed"

"really twisted, and then ultimately quite perverse"

"disturbing"

"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!
...more
Rachel
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
...more
Stefani
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
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
...more
Tracy
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.
Aishe
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
Aaron
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
Katrin
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
Pat
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
Dan Burnstein
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
...more
Cindy
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
Julianne
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
...more
Jack Rylance
Jun 21, 2012 Jack Rylance rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Jean
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
...more
Val Wilkerson
The main character of this book, the narrator, has written, and published a book, been divorced and
moved to Hawaii for a change. He is hired to manage Hotel Honolulu, owned by Buddy, a millionair who
is a heavy drinker, smoker, jokester. If this was a movie Danny Divito would have to play Buddy. I loved the other hotel workers, the local Hawaiians, I hated the way Buddy treated women. The book is mostly storied of the different guests (?? guests??? Buddy has let several become permanent residence
...more
Roya
I love the way Theroux writes and this book was no exception. I read it while I was on vacation in Kauai and I believe reading it made me more aware of the culture through I different and richer lens than I would have otherwise noticed. I was staying at (sort of) another version of Hotel Honolulu. I rented a circa late 1950s/early 60s condo (a studio) on the south shore that was OK for my needs, but had seen better days. In any case, it fit the book, or the book fit where I was at in a unique so ...more
Asae
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
Joanna Griffith
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
Nan Byrne
Oy-Vey! What an unsatisifying romp through Paul Theroux's imagination. Not one decent female character and scads of selfish people of all shapes and sizes. The entire book was like a bad burlesque show with the curtain coming down every ten pages or so as each character moved off scene and another one was ushered on stage. The transitions were rough and tumble. The library book club had a feast on this turkey. Not one member wanted to read anything else by the author and many confessed that they ...more
Persephone Abbott
I can see why people liked this book and why people didn't like this book. The up side: Easy reading, short chapters needing spurts of short attention spans, sex, more sex, kinky sex, an exotic setting, a cast of "endearing" characters. The down side: the noble savages bit ie the base story line of a famous author hiding out among uneducated savants to find a little release in paradise, the numerous tales of desperate women hunting men down, men desperate to try any angle to be aroused and get a ...more
Becky
I had a difficult time finishing this novel. At times I hated it, but ultimately I enjoyed it. The story of a white Mainlander with writer's block taking over a Honolulu hotel with a erratic owner and a colorful island staff seems to guarantee success. New hotel guests can be introduced as characters whenever the story flags but this is when the novel loses me. Midway Theroux interjects four page chapter after chapter of succinct tragedy. Each guest seems doomed to have a leg amputated, to jump ...more
Vicki
Honestly I am unsure what to write about this book. I decided to read this book based on a recommendation from someone I did not really know. I think I read it partly because I lived in Honolulu for awhile, but this book was definitely about a Honolulu I did not know, but probably saw hints of it from time to time now that I look back. As I was reading, I did sometimes think that this book was more or a "man's read" than a "woman's read", yet there was something about some of the characters part ...more
Oyster
Paul Theroux has visited more places—and written many more books—than most travel writers. We like his funny, satirical novel set in Hawaii, in which the 50th state takes center stage for a cast of odd travelers checking in to the Hotel Honolulu.
Fussnik
I keep trying to like this author. second book; not a winner either. writing is nice, sort of okay, nothing happens that I care to read about.
Mark
A longer review of this book appears at www.cloquetriverpress.com. Loved the book. Loved the sex. Loved the humor.
Great read.
Mark
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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
More about Paul Theroux...
The Great Railway Bazaar Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town The Mosquito Coast Riding the Iron Rooster The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas

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