MJ Nicholls's Reviews > Hotel World

Hotel World by Ali Smith
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Oct 02, 11

bookshelves: hoots-mon, novels, distaff
Read on October 02, 2011

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 pink-covered novel moved me to bits, and I am proud of the fact.

Split into six sections marked by a separate tense, Hotel World uses a corporate hotel and the accidental death of Sara Wilby as a pull for its five characters, establishing a style and structure used in her later novels The Accidental and There but for the. Each section varies in rhythm, style and narrative position, opening with Sara’s ghost conversing with her corpse to get the scoop on her death. Crouching in a dumbwaiter (a lift shaft for tea trolleys), Sara plummeted to a horrible death aged twenty.

Entangled in this tale is the predicament of homeless woman Else who plots to steal money from Sara’s sister Clare, crouched outside the hotel in a state of incoherent grief. She is invited in by Lisa (third character who later is stricken with a debilitating disease) and then hounded by the unpleasant Penny (fourth character: a journo seeking a scoop in Else). Each section immerses the reader deeply in these characters’ worlds, each drawn to this grim hotel with their own motives, problems, tenuous links to life.

Most staggering of all, however, is the internal monologue from Clare, a stream-of-consciousness outpouring and the most bone-shudderingly effective representation of grief I have read. The moment the mist clears and we realise Clare is throwing objects down the hotel’s dumbwaiter to determine the duration of her sister’s fall, our hearts break like Sara’s brittle bones.

Outrageously good. Books are rarely as skilful nowadays. Smith is a singular talent.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine someday I'm going to read this


message 2: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Make it tomorrow. You might even get a non-pink edition.


message 3: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine yeah I don't read pink books


Paul nice one MJ, even though I had a completely opposite view. Vive le differance.


message 5: by Manny (new)

Manny Still haven't read an Ali Smith, but your review makes me want to change that. Nice work!


message 6: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Hurray for hyperbole! She has three exceptional novels out, the other two being The Accidental and There but for the.


message 7: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca I gotta luv me some Pink, and not Flowyd, 't seems.


Lynne King MJ, I'm inundated with books but I hope to buy this...A beautiful review!


message 9: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Please do. Masterpiece.


Lynne King Well you've convinced me MJ. I've just ordered the paperback and it should be "chez-moi" 30 October.

I'm intrigued to see how I will find this. A book purchased on a whim...


message 11: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Lynne wrote: "A book purchased on a whim..."

The most thrilling kind!


message 12: by Gregsamsa (new) - added it

Gregsamsa Delicious review, but I would have enjoyed more intervening info regarding domestic duties and stomach grumbles. No matter: your Smithusiasm is quite persuasive.


message 13: by Lynne (last edited Nov 03, 2014 01:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynne King MJ wrote: "Lynne wrote: "A book purchased on a whim..."

The most thrilling kind!"


MJ, I read this book in one sitting last night. I missed my dinner and Chloé, my labrador got extremely annoyed with me that her "convenience" walk in the garden was so late.

But this book. Well, for about the first twenty-five pages, I thought what was this extraordinary book. I will abandon it immediately but something told me that I must persevere and back I went to the first page.

What an amazing book with the "wretched stream-of-consciousness" that I'm not really a great lover of but somehow it worked here. I must confess that I felt like a voyeur through the entire book but it is brilliant.

Rereading your superb review again, you managed to point out one character that I was somewhat confused with but that's now all sorted. I hope?


message 14: by MJ (last edited Nov 03, 2014 01:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls I am always willing to divulge overly much info on my domestic duties and stomach grumbles, especially in Ali Smith review comments.

Lynne: That's delightful to hear. The opening section really sucks you into the novel using a technique that people hate = genius. I would recommend this book to writers as a masterclass in how to manage multiple techniques and povs. Glad you were as bowled over as I was.


message 15: by Agnieszka (new) - added it

Agnieszka Came here from Lynne's review and I totally agree with her . This is great appraisal , MJ !


message 16: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Thanks, Agnieszka. I heartily recommend all of Ali's novels.


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