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Hotel World

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  5,175 ratings  ·  492 reviews
Five disparate voices inhabit Ali Smith's dreamlike, mesmerising Hotel World, set in the luxurious anonymity of the Global Hotel, in an unnamed northern English city. The disembodied yet interconnected characters include Sara, a 19-year-old chambermaid who has recently died at the hotel; her bereaved sister, Clare, who visits the scene of Sara's death; Penny, an advertisin ...more
Paperback, 236 pages
Published April 25th 2002 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published April 25th 2001)
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Sophie I want to say the winter of 1999. It's not really relevant, though. No current events are mentioned.
Lisa Thomas
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  5,175 ratings  ·  492 reviews

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MJ Nicholls
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: distaff, hoots-mon, novels
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
This is the fourth book by Ali Smith I’ve read - which is interesting because if there’s a number Smith likes, it’s the number four - her books are sometimes divided into four sections and a couple have titles containing four words - How to Be Both, There But for the.

This book has four female characters, Else, Lisa, Penny and Claire. Each character has her own section which is written as an interior monologue. Each section is connected directly or indirectly to the hotel where a fifth character
Lynne King
Oct 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Diane Barnes
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
First: Thank you, Doug, for recommending this one to me. Playful and inventive and wonderful, everything you said is true.

"Remember you must live."
"Remember you must leave. "

A 20 year old girl dies when she plunges to the bottom of an elevator shaft while playing around in a hotel dumbwaiter. That doesn't sound like a premise for an exceptional novel, but in Ali Smith's hands that's exactly what it becomes. There are five viewpoints here, including that of Sara herself, as she recalls her deat
Doug H
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this.

Sad subjects, gleeful writing. Playful and inventive. The most original thing I've read this year. Experimental yet completely accessible. Not a "difficult" book at all. It almost makes me want to try reading Virginia Woolf again. Honestly though, I think I like this author better.

The Pepto Bismal pink book cover is a shame. In fact, most of her book covers are a shame. They seem to scream "Ladies Only" and probably put most male readers off. If Ali Smith is a woman's writer, then c
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
L.S. Popovich
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star, 2019
While I appreciate Ali Smith's experimentation, I'm not a fan of the quotidian rhythm of her narrators. Whether they are waiting at the airport, or sitting around on their home computer, or flopping on the bed of a sleazy hotel room, I find myself waiting for something interesting to happen far too frequently. Many will find much appeal in Smith's wry and pointed, thought-provoking comments on society, but you can't escape the droll pace and lingering taste of inconsequential dread of the mundan ...more
Jul 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Suzanne by: Ali Smith's other books
Shelves: book-club
2.5 stars

Because it was October, I had campaigned for my book club to read something scary, but I was overruled and we ended up with Hotel World as the selection. I didn’t get my first choice, which would have been Frankenstein, although I did get a ghost story, but a sad one, not a scary one. Told, as Ali Smith’s stories often are, by different characters in alternating sections, the language and narrative structure of the book are creative, sometimes experimental, which is also in keeping wit
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
Jun 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-english, 2020
Reading Ali Smith I'm constantly asking myself "Am I liking this? Is this good? Do I just feel like it's supposed to be good because it's postmodern? Is the postmodernism annoying me so much I'm knocking it, even though I DO like it?"

So, there are always parts I like. Some I even like a lot. And that is always when the author lets us get close to a character. But you see, this is Literature with a capital l, so there is much stream and conciousness and lots of parts that are hard to understand
Barry Pierce
A good, but nowhere near as good as her others, novel from one of my favourite authors Ali Smith. This is probably her most depressing novel, I mean, one of the narrators is literally a dead person. All the action takes place around a hotel, The Global Hotel. Even from the name of the hotel you can tell that this novel is full of metaphor for the human condition. Usually I like that sort of this but this one didn't do it for me. I'm kinda disappointed but I can't be mad at Ali. She's a brilliant ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ughmakeitstop
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Only my second from Ali Smith. And the one that convinced me.

Believe the HYPE folks.
Abbie | ab_reads
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Three books in and it’s official: I’m in love with Ali Smith. If you’d told me two years ago that I would love books written in a stream of consciousness style I’d have laughed in your face. I didn’t think it would work for me, and I can totally see why it doesn’t work for some others, but oh my, work it does!!
When I’m reading a book by Ali Smith I feel like a little bumblebee, the pages are my nectar and I’m bumbling from page to page, getting a wee bit intoxicated on all that sweet pollen-y g
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Greg Giannakis
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I never thought I'd say this but... I think Ali Smith's overtaken Murakami as my favourite author. Reading a book that makes you want to cry, curl up in a little ball and fills you with the most melancholy and bittersweet of happinesses is why I read in the first place. I don't know what to do with myself.

No one I've read yet has had such a powerful voice and view of the human experience. Every word she writes has a purpose and a necessity. My favourite Ali Smith yet.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Laura by: Jen Campbell on YT
I very rarely DNF a book. This was my first by Ali Smith. It started out as a five star, or close to five star read, which is why I'm disappointed, to say the least.

We visit five people who are all connected to a ritzy hotel in a city. The first died there, and is now a ghost. That chapter, which was a long one, was riveting and I loved it. I was ready to read everything this author wrote.

The second person is a homeless person who sets up nearby the hotel. Her story was less interesting, but s
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
To me this is a book of associations and benefits from a hermeneutic reading in its simple methodological sense. I hope to avoid being apophantic, jargon heavy, or avuncular, but I have a feeling that is precisely my tendency. So, sorry if you read this.

I would encourage the prospective reader to push past the first section in which the dead girl speaks to her own body. It didn't work for me, a bit of a juvenile, Cartesian conceit. Yet, the rest is very fine prose indeed. Especially the last na
Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
I didn't manage to really connect with the story behind Hotel World: the structure of the novel is ingenious, because it gradually becomes clear that the 5 women that are speaking to us all have a link with the same hotel, but the sequence of different writing styles is so ostentatious (see what I can!) that the story itself remains in the fog. OK, the social dimension (the perspective of different social classes in British society) is certainly recognizable, but it didn't "hit" me. Probably I'm ...more
T for Tongue-tied
Life cut short. Hopes and plans vanishing like a spring flower crushed into nothingness by a reckless shoe. Reluctant disappearance of those who are not ready to give up on their earthly tragedy just yet. Words stripped down to the painful core like the insides of an aching body tearing itself to pieces in the persistent act of breathing.
Occasional shafts of sunlight. A flickering smile.

One minute we are here and the next we aren't. Tired of our own infirmity, we curl up and wait, devising tent
Hotel World was quite the experience. Ali Smith certainly has talent asking with her unique writing style and a recognizable author's voice. The synopsis for it actually gives great insight into the core of this novel:

"Five disparate voices inhabit Ali Smith's dreamlike, mesmerising Hotel World, set in the luxurious anonymity of the Global Hotel, in an unnamed northern English city. The disembodied yet interconnected characters include Sara, a 19-year-old chambermaid who has recently died at th
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing

"Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. That at least. A place. Where none. For the body. To be in."

Worstward Ho

Ali Smith knows how to make her very own wounds blossom. Her prose is strong, at moments heartbreakingly funny, and allusive.

The main character of "Hotel World" is a haunting spectre; a broken voice with a story; a cluster of faint memories of a past life, of a past love, which come to the surface only to be forgotten one by one; a posthuman narra
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost perfect. Inventive, sagacious, gorgeous, piercing. My one quibble is the "ghost" trope. I would have liked to see that handled differently. But hardly detracts from the abundant dazzle radiating from these quilted time-space-grammar vignettes. Smith has an eye for the moments, objects, and words we unknowingly shed as we move through life and how this detritus floats around the peripheral field of others, sometimes becoming central. Thankfully she has the ear to find the prose to put it i ...more
Prem Sylvester
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Despite the pop vibrance of the cover, this is a book about death. Not simply death as tragedy, or the 'end.' It flits through the liminal space between death and life, death and love, fate and will. It is about those who live like death is a myth, like suffering is an unknowable. It is about those times when we pass by death like ships in the night. It is about the detritus and surviving of death.

So then, it is as much about life.

remember you must live
remember you most love
remainder you mist
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a lot to say about this one, but I'm most impressed by how Smith structures her books. To organize There But For The into sections by word; Hotel World into verb tenses --- somehow never comes off pretentious; somehow lends a real and important new layer of interpretation. Her understanding of humanity and the time in which she's living goes beyond what you can explain in narration. What a palate cleanser.
Ali Smith has such appeal. I love her writing.

This novel is an untraditional ghost story. It centers on five different characters, each of whom gets her own chapter, itself framed in a specific grammatical tense (present, past, etc) that emphasizes the book’s concern with time. The overlap among them is the Global Hotel and 19-year old Sara, who kicks off the book by plunging to her death in a freak accident in the hotel dumbwaiter.

One of the five epigraphs comes from Muriel Spark’s “Memento M
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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Ali Smith is a writer, born 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 how it for ...more

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