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The Paragon Hotel
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April 2019: History > The Paragon Hotel, by Lyndsay Faye- 3 Stars

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message 1: by Joi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3775 comments How to review this? This had the makings of a great historical fiction novel. A fabulous setting- both NYC's "little Italy" and Portland, Oregon (very close to where I live!) in the height of the roaring 20's. The language was fun- very to the time period. Great characters-from the doctor, to the nightclub singer, and our heroine named "Nobody". Big events happening, corruption, the mafia, the KKK, a kidnapping. But somehow I never felt fully immersed in the world, and I simply didn't really look forward to picking it up.

This follows "Nobody" or Alice in two parts of her life. The first part her fleeing NYC via train, and getting to Portland, Oregon. Nursing a gunshot would, a nice porter helps her and takes her to the title Paragon Hotel, an all-black hotel. There she meets the hotel's guests, including Davey, a 6 year old who goes missing. The second storyline has Alice's background and upbringing, taking us all the way from her parents (dead father, prostitute mother), her history with the mafia, and how she ended up with that gunshot wound on the way to Portland to begin with.

I really wanted to like this. Despite being known now for being more liberal and for inclusion, Oregon has an extremely racist background, and this is shown with nonfiction quotes from newspapers and citations in the beginning of chapters. We see the power struggle, the difference in how the hotel patrons are treated versus Alice. We see Alice using her white skin to gain access and information everyone else can't. But the book is never really about the events going on. The mystery of Davey's disappearance isn't meant to drive the book. This book was mainly about identity- in all it's forms, and thus was a pretty slow burn. Do we really want to know everything about our neighbors (hotel guests)? The themes, language, and picture painting was reminiscent of Rules of Civility- but just wasn't at that same level for me.

I loved the setting of this so much, and the author had some afternotes that explained some of the history. The Paragon Hotel is based off a real hotel in Portland (now low income housing) called the Golden West which housed black service and railroad industrymen and women. This site is considered one of (if not the most) important historic African American sites in Portland.


message 2: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7112 comments This was a DNF for me-I really wanted to like it too, but I got about 1/3 of the way in and then it sat on my nightstand until it was due back at the library.


Ellen | 2051 comments Lovely review, Joi. I felt very much the same - 3 stars for me as well. I had a hard time with the language; quite film noir gangster to me. I didn't understand what the characters were saying.


message 4: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2711 comments DNF for me too. I was very disappointed because I've liked some of her other books so much.


message 5: by Joi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3775 comments I think had this not been set in Portland, it may have been a DNF for me also. Hubby and I listened to the first 35% on audiobook on the way to Seattle, and we decided to not listen to it on the way back because he wasn't invested in it at all. I plugged through and finished, but ended up with only 3 stars.

Ellen- did you do the audiobook? I felt like the language was super fun with the gangster jargon and "New York-isms", but it could be that listening gave a lot more context for understanding?


Ellen | 2051 comments Maybe I should have done the audio. I can see where the language would lend itself better to audio than print.


message 7: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2711 comments Ellen wrote: "Maybe I should have done the audio. I can see where the language would lend itself better to audio than print."

I started with the audio. The reader was awful. The character was raised in early 20th century harlem. There wasn't only a distinctive slang, there was a very distinct regional accent. The audio performer had none. I thought the book would get better for me if I had the text, but that didn't work for me either. :(


message 8: by Joi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3775 comments Oh dang, I guess ignorance is bliss- because I thought the audio narrator was fine.


message 9: by Jgrace (new)

Jgrace | 2711 comments Joi wrote: "Oh dang, I guess ignorance is bliss- because I thought the audio narrator was fine."

:) I was born in New Jersey. My grandmother's 11 brothers and sisters married men and women from all corners of the 'tri-state' area. It' different now, but there were dialect differences depending on which part of NYC, and which ethnic background they came from. I could hear it from my great aunts and uncles.


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