Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hotel Angeline by Various

Title: Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices
Author: Jennie Shortridge & Garth Stein, editor/organizer

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Pacific Northwest / Collaborative)
Publisher/Publication Date: Open Road (5/3/2011)
Source: NetGalley

Rating: Okay-ish to interesting.
Did I finish?: Unfortunately, no.
One-sentence summary: Fourteen year old Alexis deals with the challenges of running a residential hotel, dodging police, and her real estate-hungry uncle.
Reading Challenges: E-books

Do I like the cover?: Oh yes -- it's so quirky and interesting, very eye-catching.

First line: Halfway up the basement steps of the Hotel Angeline, laden with a heavy stack of industrial sheets and towels, Alexis Austen was beginning to think she'd taken on too heavy a load.

Why did I get this book?: The setup -- Thirty-six of the most interesting writers in the Pacific Northwest came together for a week-long marathon of writing live on stage -- seemed too cool to resist.

Review:  Unfortunately, my favorite part of this potentially fascinating novel was the forward and introduction.  A fascinating mix of performance art and literary experiment, this novel was born out of a brainstorm to raise awareness about Seattle's literary scene.  A basic outline was created and the authors given free reign to interpret and move the story along as they saw fit.  Totally neat and super exciting.

From the start, I didn't connect with the story or characters.  Alexis is an interesting enough teenager in a very sad situation, but the secondary characters were all so unappealing and the plot so over-the-top that I just couldn't connect with Alexis -- and worse, come to care about her.  The running of a residential hotel is very novel and that part intrigued me, but the tenants are all child-adults stuck in the '60s.  I think they were meant to be quirky and funny and a little bit pathetic, but I found myself angry and irritated with them -- so much so, I couldn't imagine why Alexis continued to enable them as she did.

I wanted very much to experience Seattle as a character, but despite the numerous mentions of neighborhoods and a few landmarks, I didn't get a sense of the city in the story.  Alexis could have been in any liberal urban area; I didn't feel as if Seattle (or the Pacific Northwest) was particularly noticeable in the narrative.  Missing that connection, then, all her running around the city was tiresome to me and seemed to be a space filler.

Overall, the quality of the writing was good (I've added about a dozen new writers to my TBR) and for me, the weakness was the story.  I just didn't dig the plot.  But I enjoyed the language and the sort of kaleidoscopic way each author eyed Alexis and her plight.  Seattle folks might enjoy this novel for it's setting, and fans of avant garde fiction might get a kick out of writing-as-performance.  Anyone who enjoys reading-as-experience will like the forward and I recommend this book for that alone!


  1. Too bad you didn't like it more. I love the format of your review though. Gave me just what I needed to know.

  2. Eh....nah not for me. Too bad you didn't even feel like finishing it.

  3. I recently read a blurb about this book somewhere so when I saw that you reviewed it I was really interested in your thoughts. But it sounds like this intriguing idea didn't quite work out. I am all about the characters and I don't have to like them but there has toi be a connection or something about them that makes me want to keep reading their story. I wonder if this was a case of "too many cooks spoil the broth", especially since you found the writing quality very good.

    Thanks for your honest review. I might look this book up in the library to see what authors contributed but I don't think I'll read it!

  4. @Amy - OpenRoad Media has a great webpage set up about it with a list of the contributors. Definitely check out the forward if you come across this book at the library -- it was really quite good.