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The Frangipani Hotel

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  780 ratings  ·  218 reviews
From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there, to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster, to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sis ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2014)
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Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
I'm Vietnamese. I speak, write, and read the language. I was born there, I know people who were served in the Vietnam War (hi, dad), I know people who came over to Europe, the US, Australia as boat people. So needless to say, if this book claims to be a book of Vietnamese stories, I'm going to be extra-critical.

This book is a collection of Vietnamese ghost stories. They are the most boring ghosts I have ever read.

Let me clarify something: There are no traditional Vietnamese ghost stories. We hav
What your mind dredges up from memory and consciousness upon the utterance of the word 'Vietnam' is wholly predictable. That naked girl child of Trảng Bàng fleeing a napalm attack in terror, her scream silenced by the stillness of the well-known picture you have glanced at time and again or the grotesque image of blood-soaked bodies heaped by the side of a rice field in My Lai that continued to burn like a stinging slap across the face of the American administration long after the troops had pul ...more
An Redman
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
The writing is gorgeous and the settings are always lush. I love love love the way the author utilizes both elderly and children characters, a skill set often missing in single author anthologies. There exists a wry and mischievous sense of humour that pervades most of the stories. At no point did I feel like the author was trying too hard to impress us (which is a compliment, I assure you). I don't think I've read Vietnam centric stories before (certainly not this many in rapid succession) and ...more
Inspired by her Vietnamese grandmother’s oral traditions, Kupersmith began composing these nine short stories as a student at Mt. Holyoke. Her knowledge of Vietnamese history, both ancient folktales and post-War reconstruction, is masterful, but she so carefully interweaves this material with her storylines that nothing ever seems superfluous. Her wit is similarly effortless. I particularly enjoyed her comic one-liners: “Vietnam was Fat Camp”; the Frangipani Hotel itself is dismissed with “Swank ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Frangipani is an old run down hotel n Saigon and where the story, Reception, takes place. One of my favorites and the story that had the most humor. I loved all of these stories, ghost tales and folk tales all having some hidden meaning to the teller of the story. All offer a glimpse into the Vietnamese culture.

Loved Skin and Bones though I will admit I am not sure of the whole meaning or the happenings within. It still fascinated me and I identified with the characters the most in this one.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I wasn't sure what to expect from a book of "Vietnamese ghost stories," but I really enjoyed the surprises and twists in this book. Some of the stories are set in Vietnam, and some are in places like California featuring Vietnamese characters, but all of them are very contemporary, at least one generation removed from the Vietnam War. Contemporary in setting but not necessarily in subject, as the stories told by the characters often go back several generations.

Look for characters that may or may
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Short stories are difficult; either you just begin to like the character and the story ends or the story doesn't develop enough to really care. I think Frangipani Hotel with it's nine stories suffers a little from the later. I did for the most part like the characters, but felt they lacked depth, especially the older characters. This book was advertised as being based on Vietnamese folk tales and because of this I expected to be immersed in the Vietnam culture, but found that it was not focal to ...more

One less than noble reason for short stories growing on me is their inherent lack of commitment. For someone for whom 200 pages is short and 600 is close to being able to stand up and stretch, short stories, save for the rare cycle and complete collection, are a snack, more emotive per pound and less to process. This is especially the case when the area of expertise is not my own, as it's difficult to expend the necessary effort to find things amiss when you don't know much about the immigr
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian, 2014
I have a thing for reading books by preternaturally young writers. As you can see from the examples I have linked, I tend to find their work either prodigious or terrible.

Violet Kupersmith's The Frangipani Hotel is a different breed. Like Abigail Tarttelin's Golden Boy, she tackles an inherently risky topic. Good supernatural stories have a feeling of agelessness; Kupersmith's intent (at least, as I've gathered her intent to be from the book copy and reviews) was for the spirits of these storie
Emma Sea
Gobsmackingly good.

I found Turning Back and One-Finger to be far less accomplished, but honestly? I couldn't pick between the others for my favorite. The sense of place was captivating.

I notice one reviewer says, "The writer shows promise . . . though [it] does not have the level of craft of first-rate professional fiction."

To which I'd reply, "What the hell are you reading?" (I almost giffed, here).
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I read advance descriptions of this debut story collection, I interpreted the mentions of ghost stories infused with Vietnamese folkloric elements to mean there would be literary ghosts. By that I mean there would be tales that would reveal metaphoric ghosts, the ghosts of a country scarred by a drawn-out and debilitating war, the stories of immigrants who are haunted by the country and family they left behind and the loss and longing of later generations born in the United States and in Vi ...more
Althea Ann
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
ATTENTION! Nebula nominators and World Fantasy Award voters! You want to read this book!
Yes, I know it says "The Frangipani Hotel: Fiction." And the cover is ever so tastefully vague and understated. A more accurate title might be: "The Frangipani Hotel: Dark, Lush and Horrific Ghostly Tales of Vietnam." If the cover artist really wanted to reflect the content of the book, there'd be a creepy zombie walking through the fog, next to that quaint boat.

But, Kupersmith is clearly a new young author t
I'm going to be biased. These are my type of ghost stories - eerie and atmospheric rather than gross out or jump-scary. Even though I'm not Vietnamese, these scaries seem familiar. While I'm positive I've never heard exactly the same tale, there's the feeling that I could have heard it, in a good way. For the stories themselves, as with any story collection, there are good eggs and bad ones. But the good ones are really good - I still feel uneasy about Reception, set in the titular Frangipani Ho ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Prepare yourself for the wunderkind talk sure to erupt when Violet Kupersmith's book of stories comes out. She's ridiculously young and has a pretty author's photo. It's enough to make any aspiring writer jealous.

Worse, Kupersmith earns it. Her book of stories is lovely and eerie and full of spooky stories. Americans in Vietnam, Vietnamese in America, displacement is a regular theme. The early stories are the highlight, such as the titular one. (Though I have to say: TERRIBLE title for a book. I
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, north-america, asia
I'm not familiar with Vietnamese ghost or spirit stories, so I don't know if the stories in The Frangipani Hotel reflect on the culture & folklore of Vietnam or not. I do know that Kupersmith has created an atmospheric collection of stories that seem to mesh the spirit world with the modern world, weaving the eerie or odd into modern times, often with a mischievous humor, presenting both a clash & a concert of characters (whether human, spirit, animal, or location). I am glad I found this beguil ...more
Anna Janelle
I’ll be incredibly honest in admitting my ignorance about Vietnamese culture and traditions. (To me, my only relevant frame of reference is my limited knowledge about the horror of the Vietnam War. I mean, basic history class stuff coupled with brief interactions with veterans – usually old alcoholics that I encounter in bars, men still wrecked from their involvement in that botched war that happened over forty years ago. I can’t imagine living through that horror as an American – much less livi ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I loved this volume of short stories, right from the first page. Reminiscent of Aimee Bender, Elizabeth Hand, Sara Maitland, and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Kupersmith's stories have that wonderful mix of mood, slightly supernatural-y elements, and lovely language you just want to pluck out and savor.

These nine stories are set in Vietnan or in Vietnamese-American households in the US. Most have an undercurrent of creepiness to them due to a vaguely supernatural or paranormal element, usually due to
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Ms. Kupersmith's writing and descriptions are well done. There is a good sense of place to all the stories, whether you are in a crappy neighborhood in a big American city or in the jungles of Vietnam. I think she has a promising career as a writer.
Although I liked the stories in The Frangipani Hotel, I did not love them. Here's why. Although they were ghost stories, I was never afraid or creeped out. My favorite of the ghost stories was "One-Finger," which had the scariest back story and atmosp
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I must admit I usually stir clear of collections of short stories. The book cover looked interesting however, and when I read a bit more about the book itself, the combination of a young author and stories about Vietnam did sound sufficiently exotic for me to take a chance. And as it frequently happens, good things happen when we step out of our comfort zone.

Violet Kupersmith is a talented story teller without a doubt and a promising writer. I would dare say that for most people in North Americ
Chris Blocker
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Violet Kupersmith's debut collection, The Frangipani Hotel, has some wonderful stories. All with a touch of Vietnam, these ghost stories often blend the war era with modern times. Many are startling and creepy, but what's most impressive is the variety from one story to the next. Overall, this collection had some hits and it had its misses. There were some stories that felt unworked, perhaps even a bit juvenile; let's acknowledge that for the age and experience of the author, this is an amazing ...more
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: halloween
This book is perhaps one of the most unique reads that I have encountered in the last couple of years. It is a breath of fresh air in an area of space that seems to be rehashed over and over in the world of the ghostly and bizarre. The author presents a compilation of paranormal stories that take place in Vietnam, which are both fascinating and disturbing. It brings a slight insight of both the spiritual and family practices of the people of Vietnam. Thus, making the stories all more personal fo ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
I love a good ghost story. I like to be scared. To have the feeling that someone might be watching or to get goose bumps and have the hairs on my arms stand up. These are all feelings that I should experience when I read a great ghost story or two or in this case many ghost stories. I felt none of these while reading this book. Not even a whisper of a feeling.

The first story was fine. The second story I can not remember and only read a few pages of. The third story was better but at the same ti
Sharon/ LFrog1386
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing tales of the supernatural and ghosts of war from a gifted storyteller. Kupersmith knows how to keep you guessing until the very end, then leaves you with a quick punch to the gut. Breathless, you go back and read the last paragraph or last line again, not quite believing what you just read. The stories echo of a country and culture deeply rooted in the souls of those born there and fought there and still haunt the survivors to this day and forever more.
Nancy Steinle gummel
The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith is a first reads win and I am giving my honest opinion. This book is a compilation of short stories all involving the Vietnamese people either here in the States or in Vietnam. There is en element of the supernatural that rings out in these stories. If you let your imagination run you can see the horror before your eyes.
Writing short stories is so hard. There were a few that I wished were full books - the characters and setting were fantastic. But there's a darkness that courses through this book, so it was tough reading before bed. ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book of ghosts, the kinds of ghosts who have been long disturbed and long interested in the changes wrought by the conflict between Vietnam and its visitors from the West. Mostly, these are Vietnamese ghosts, but they are also the ghosts of the young who were disappointed, the naive who were exploited, and the displaced who are eternally lost.

These stories are magnificent: Kupersmith draws pictures that place the reader not only inside Vietnam but in the mind's eye of those who have b
Piyali Mukherjee
I loved the local flavor of Vietnam that colored these stories, but there was a distinct improvement in style from the opening story to the end. "The Guests" would probably be my most favorite story since it captures the dissonance of the immigrant experience beautifully. The elements of magical realism in the book felt closer to intriguing rather than terrifying, and I don't know if this collection is necessarily a collection of horror stories. The horror was easy to foreshadow and identify in ...more
I'm never quite sure how to review short story collections, so bear with me. These stories all share a sense of unease and creeping dread, which is something I enjoy in my ghost stories. There are plenty of spooky ghosts, unsettling scenarios, and narratives that leave your skin crawling. They have a feeling of tapping into urban legends and traditional folk tales (though I don't know enough about Vietnamese culture to say whether that is accurate or not). The connective tissue that holds these ...more
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
The Fangipani Hotel is an interesting creature—an atmospheric collection of ghost/supernatural stories that are contemporary in their setting, but grounded in centuries-old Vietnamese folklore. I'm not usually a reader of supernatural fiction, but having read a fair bit of non-fiction about the war in Vietnam, I was curious to see what the author would do in creating post-war narratives that drew on both recent and more distant history. The war itself was certainly more horrific than any Stephen ...more
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My five senses were on alert every moment while reading The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith. This is a collection of short stories. Mainly the stories take place in Vietnam or Houston, Texas. Each story is widely different from the other one. Some of the stories seemed heavy with symbolism. For example, a few stories are about the splitting of one self. A person is experiencing an event outside of himself but with himself at the same time. There are stories I would call fantasies. For exam ...more
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Violet Kupersmith is the author of the novel BUILD YOUR HOUSE AROUND MY BODY and the short story collection THE FRANGIPANI HOTEL. She previously taught English with the Fulbright Program in the Mekong Delta and was a creative writing fellow at the University of East Anglia. She has lived in Da Lat and Saigon, Vietnam, and currently resides in the U.S.

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25 likes · 6 comments
“In fact, she rather liked it, and found that their mutual lack of language skills freed them from the banalities of conversation.” 2 likes
“For one insane, brief moment, Mia imagined that Tuan was somehow able to see into her mind, her heart, and that his horror had been in response to seeing all the ugliness that was there beneath the skin, gnawing a hole somewhere deep and vital inside her.” 0 likes
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