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The Electric Hotel

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  1,085 ratings  ·  286 reviews
Los Angeles, 1962: Silent filmmaker Claude Ballard's daily routine is interrupted by an aspiring film student, whose inquiries about Claude's famous lost film, The Electric Hotel sparks memories of a near-forgotten era.

Paris, 1895: Twenty-year-old Claude Ballard interviews for a job as a 'concession agent' for the Lumiere Brothers. With a CV, such that it is, that contains
Paperback, 464 pages
Published June 3rd 2019 by Allen & Unwin
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well, every book its reader &yadda…

i won this in a gr giveaway, and when it arrived, i admired it as a physical object, but upon reading the synopsis i was all, “why did i…?” until i remembered i had entered the giveaway because this was the author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, which i had heard such spectacularly glowing things about from reviewers i trust. i still haven’t read The Last Painting of Sara de Vos—i bought it but haven’t felt any urgency to read it because it doesn’t sound l
Dominic Smith has written a fascinating account of the early days of film, borrowing his title from that of a recently rediscovered and restored silent film from 1908. Through his main character, French photographer Claude Ballard, he recalls Claude's early life making very short moving image strips for the Lumiere brothers, travelling around the world showing these to packed theatres. Popular strips were one of a falling cat, a stuntman on fire diving into the sea at a Sydney beach and later a ...more
Smith's The Electric Hotel is a historical novel that feels more like a real-life historical sketch. It feels so real, so true, so accurate, you'd swear it's not fiction at all. And what's he done here is create a novel do rich and textured that it's many things at once. It is, without question, a love story with the silent film era and the birth of the movie industry. It is also a meditation on history, on memory, and what secrets lie in the elderly people we drive past every day.

The Electric
The Electric Hotel is a love letter to an earlier time, not necessarily an easier time, but the early years of film, a time of adventure, excitement, exploration, wild success and horrible failure. Also a time of new techniques, new materials and much thinking on one’s feet. It is also a love letter to the friends, partners and lovers who were part of that glorious, difficult, wondrous time, the people who shared the victories and defeats of the early film era.

The novel centers on Claude Ballard
Jul 03, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads giveaway win!
Joy D
In 1962, fictional silent film pioneer Claude Ballard, now in his eighties and living in a dilapidated Hollywood hotel, is sought out by a young man writing his dissertation on the history of early movies. The storyline covers Ballard’s eventful life, including his medical photography, creation of films to promote the Lumière brothers’ cinématographe, infatuation with an actress, production of The Electric Hotel, and involvement in capturing images of the Great War. It focuses on an ensemble of ...more
Dale Harcombe
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Claude Ballard, is an eighty five year old man at the beginning of this story. He is waiting for Martin Embry, a film buff and historian who wants to learn about Claude’s career as one of the early exponents of the silent film industry. From this meeting between the two men in 1962, the story retraces the scenes to show how Claude came to start off in the film profession and the influences along the way. It also tells the story of his love for the actress Sabine Montrose, who became his muse. Bu ...more
Claude Ballard has been living in the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel for almost half a century. His suite is crammed with rapidly deteriorating film reels and other memorabilia from his days as a lauded silent film director and cameraman. When a PhD candidate in film history comes to interview Claude about his lost masterpiece The Electric Hotel, Claude reflects on his twin obsessions; moving pictures and the actress, Sabine Montrose.

Moving from Paris in 1895, when the Lumière brothers first reve
Kasa Cotugno
When I ask a man what he's reading, usually the answer is "history." I know this sounds sexist, but men gravitate more in that direction and feel a deeper interest in history, and Dominic Smith is a prime example. His works are evidence of dedicated research, and his books bring the past to life that gives his tales contemporary immediacy whether they're set the 17th century Amsterdam of Sara deVos or here in The Electric Hotel, set in the early cinematic days of the Lumiere Brothers and in turn ...more
The Electric Hotel was the title of a very ambitious silent movie made by the director Claude Ballard, his muse and actress Sabine Montrose, stuntman Chip Spaulding and the producer and impresario Hal Bender. It was longer than any previous movie and included a tiger and dangerous special effects. Unfortunately, it encountered legal problems that prevented its circulation.

Most of this book is a flashback describing Claude’s experiences in the early days of the movie business, including the maki
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The Electric Hotel is the fifth novel by award-winning Australian-born author, Dominic Smith. For over thirty years, semi-reclusive French cinematic genius, Claude Ballard has kept a suite at Hollywood’s Knickerbocker Hotel, a suite filled with film and memorabilia, but it’s not until 1962 that he consents a request by aspiring film historian, Martin Embry to discuss his life.

When Martin is invited into Claude’s suite, he is assaulted by the vinegar smell and demonstrates to Claude how his prec
David J
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anticipated-2019, arc
Anyone who knows me knows I love cinema too, especially the Golden Age of Hollywood. With Dominic Smith’s The Electric Hotel, we go back a little further to where cinema all started with (fictional) French pioneer Claude Ballard, who has been living at the Knickerbocker Hotel in LA long after his silent film The Electric Hotel ended not only his career but that of his love and muse, Sabine Montrose. Smith spins a tale of cinematic history with a detailed and affecting look at the relationship be ...more
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone has a story to tell and Claude is no exception. By chance he responds to an interview request from a film history student. Suddenly he has an audience once again. His story as a pioneer of silent movie making unfolds as Martin, the student, hangs on every word. Claude, an outstanding and creative gentleman has the boundless vision and energy to lead a group to moviemaking history. His ability to identify their talents and ways of being in the world are exactly what’s needed to make the ...more
Theresa Smith
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘Maybe memory is just electricity passing through us. Old voltage in the joints.’

This was a glorious novel of historical fiction. Possibly one of my favourite reads in the genre this year. In his latest novel, The Electric Hotel, Dominic Smith brings the beginnings of the silent film era to life with so much atmosphere and energy. It was a real joy to linger in the pages of this novel and learn something about a history I previously knew nothing about. I haven’t even seen a silent film before, a
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
To be reviewed over at Fresh Fiction!
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’m of the opinion that anything can be interesting if the right person is writing about it.

I’ve no particular interest in early film history, but figured I could get interested based on the above principle.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t do it for me.

There are some fun factoids about the early days of film and Smith writes smoothly, but mostly this was an unrewarding slog.

The relationship between Claude and his muse just isn’t that interesting, and the bulk of the plot is centered around the
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Dominic Smith's The Electric Hotel is a magnificent historical novel. it deals the lives of a fictional French-German cinematographer-director during tinIt is brilliantly and beautiful written
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I could not stop reading Dominic Smith's new novel The Electric Hotel. I was transported back in time to the heady early days of film, disturbed by a trek into the horrors of WWI, and enthralled by the vivid characters and their stories, especially the tragic story of unrequited love.

Claude Ballard's cutting-edge, notorious 1910 film The Electric Hotel had impelled audience to high emotion. It was his highest achievement, but it came crashing down when Thomas Edison sued his company for copyrigh
Kathryn in FL
This is a review of the ARC copy won from Goodreads offered in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to all who made this copy available.

I was excited to win this copy. The author has a great story telling ability but I found some details unnecessary, a bit wordy and needing a bit more editing. However, some may find these details add richness to the hotel's former opulence as well as the person's involved. The writing overall is engaging and professional. Since this is not the final product
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, 2020-read, usa
Australian writer Dominic Smith gives us the story of a lost silent movie - okay, the movie, the title-giving "The Electric Hotel", is fictional, but many of the processes discussed and historic circumstances shown are real. This is a treat for readers who are interested in the history of movies and cinema, feat. a whole cast of characters who illuminate different aspects of the craft and the creation of a new art form. And silent movies are getting a little more popular again: In Luxembourg Cit ...more
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.

From the New York Times bestselling author Dominic Smith, a radiant novel tracing the intertwined fates of a silent-film director and his muse

Dominic Smith’s The Electric Hotel winds through the nascent days of cinema in Paris and Fort Lee, New Jersey—America’s first movie town—and on the ba
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really loved this book. So well written—literary for sure but moving, interesting, and not full of itself. I loved the subject matter—the very early days of silent films in Europe and the United States—told in a flashback from 1962. The historical sequences, particularly the scenes of movie filming and production during World War I and right before in Ft. Lee New Jersey(where movies were made before they moved west to Hollywood) are moving and striking in their capture of what “it must have been ...more
I've been trying to read this for the past 2 weeks, but just can't make myself read any more of it.


Made it to page 66 and gave up.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. My thanks (and apologies) to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.
Allen and Unwin
From the award-winning author of the acclaimed bestseller The Last Painting of Sara de Vos comes a luminous new novel tracing the intertwined fates of a silent film director and his muse.
I was a little disappointed by this, having enjoyed The Last Painting of Sara de Vos so much.

The amount of research that has gone into this novel is prodigious and that alone makes it impressive, but I found it tediously over-written in parts, and quite drawn out.

It's had a lot of press, and is interesting in parts, but over-all I'm glad it's finished.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story unfolded and revealed itself in a way that made it an absolute page turner for me. It was so well balanced that I would be struggling to say it was character or plot driven. I know nothing about the silent film era but found this a fabulous seed around which this story was built. I really enjoyed The Last Painting of Sara de Vos but think Dominic Smith has taken his writing up another notch with this. I’m not sure I needed the ending to tie every character up so neatly but I guess man ...more
Claude, one of the earliest filmmakers, recounts the past and muses, "When I dream of that old life I see it like a strip of burning celluloid. It smokes and curls in the air, but it's impossible to hold between my fingers." Claude had a unique idea that even the Lumiere brothers or Edison had not dreamed of: a film with a narrative! He first cast a young Australian, Chip, who sets himself on fire then dives into the ocean for a living: 'He died and got reborn every single day" (in Chip's vernac ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Last Painting of Sara de Vos" was an extraordinary reading experience and a tough act to follow. Author Dominic Smith appears to be a writer ready to transport readers to a totally different world. Instead of 17th century Amsterdam, he takes us to the turn of the 20th century world of early cinema.

As a young French photographer, Claude Ballard sees a demonstration of moving "filmstrips" presented by the Lumiere brothers. He is fascinated, and begins making these very brief films himself in
Full review to come closer to publication!
Feb 25, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I didn't enjoy The Electric Hotel like I thought I would. I like historical fiction, but I have no interest in the history of film or the main character. I read some and skimmed through some. Overall, this story didn't intrest me enough to really care what happened. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith - 4 stars 1 9 Jan 22, 2020 06:27PM  

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Dominic grew up in Sydney, Australia and now lives in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of five novels, including The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, a New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Dominic's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, Texas Monthly, The Australian, and The New York Times. He has received literature fellowships from th ...more

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“Maybe memory is just electricity passing through us. Old voltage in the joints.” 1 likes
“No, no, Claude thought, the past never stops banging at the doors of the present. We pack it into tattered suitcases, lock it into rusting metal trunks beneath our beds, press it between yellowed pages of newsprint, but it hangs over us at night like a poisonous cloud, seeps into our shirt collars and bedclothes.” 0 likes
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