"[A] future cult classic." —The New York Times Book Review
"There’s Borges and Bolaño, Kafka and Cortázar, Modiano and Murakami, and now Laura van den Berg." —The Washington Post
Finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Award. Named a Best Book of 2018 by The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Electric Literature and Lit Hub. An August 2018 IndieNext Selection. Named a Summer 2018 Read by The Washington Post, Vulture, Nylon, Elle, BBC, InStyle, Refinery29, Bustle, O, the Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, Lit Hub, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn.
In Havana, Cuba, a widow tries to come to terms with her husband’s death—and the truth about their marriage—in Laura van den Berg’s surreal, mystifying story of psychological reflection and metaphysical mystery.
Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move. As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way. The Third Hotel is a propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers.
In her mysterious and engrossing second novel, van den Berg (Find Me) tells the story of recently widowed elevator sales rep Clare, who travels to Havana after her horror-film scholar husband, Richard, is killed in a hit-and-run near their home in Upstate New York. The couple had planned to attend the Festival of New Latin American Cinema together, specifically to see Cuba's first horror film, a zombie picture named Revoluci n Zombi, and Clare intends on seeing the trip through in Richard's honor. Shortly after arriving at the festival, between screenings and excursions close to the novel's titular hotel, Clare spies a man from afar who looks exactly like Richard. Though she knows it's impossible, Clare soon becomes convinced her husband has somehow been resurrected and begins searching for him. Toying with horror tropes and conventions, and displaying shades of authors such as Julio Cort zar, van den Berg turns Clare's journey into a dreamlike exploration of grief. This is a potent novel about life, death, and the afterlife.
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First Class Fiction
Book Review: The Third Hotel
Author: Laura Van Den Berg
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Review Date: August 6, 2018
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Here’s Amazon’s description:
“Shortly after Clare arrives in Havana, Cuba, to attend the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema, she finds her husband, Richard, standing outside a museum. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, Clare tails Richard, a horror film scholar, through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, clocking his every move. As the distinction between reality and fantasy blurs, Clare finds grounding in memories of her childhood in Florida and of her marriage to Richard, revealing her role in his death and reappearance along the way. The Third Hotel is a propulsive, brilliantly shape-shifting novel from an inventive author at the height of her narrative powers.”
Clare’s husband, Richard, as the Amazon blurb mentioned, had been a student of the horror film genre, particularly the zombie film genre.
After Richard’s death, Clare traveled to Havana to attend a Horror Film Festival, that included the first zombie film made in Cuba.
At the beginning of the story, there is a press event in which the zombie film maker answers questions from people in the audience.
One such question was: “Why make a horror film? Why not make a movie about things that really happen?”
The filmmaker replied, “...to plunge a viewer into a state of terror meant to take away their compass, their tools for navigating the world, and to replace it with a compass that told a different kind of truth. The trick was ensuring the viewer was so consumed by fright they didn’t even notice this exchange was being made; it was a secret transaction between their imagination and the film, and when they left the theater, those new truths would go with them, swimming like eels under the skin.’
The author trotted out that imagery of eels snaking throughout the body multiple times during the course of the book, which started to really get to me. I realized that this book is a psychological thriller. As I continued to read, I became aware that as I read I was becoming filled with anxiety and dread. I think this is incredible first class writing, that the reader’s state can be subtly, yet powerfully effected like that. It might have been me, but I think perhaps this was the author’s intention.
The writing was first class in every way. Extraordinary use of imagery and phrasing. Very much a visual book. For me, very much a right-brain experience as I navigated my way through the book.
The plot was deft, the characters deeply defined and the language gorgeous.
At several points I felt as if I had drifted into a dream state, that the imagery carried me along into a highly altered place
This is a book of first class writing. 5 Stars! Highly, highly recommended. I’ve never read a book like this. I’ve never understood or been attracted to the horror genre, but this book gave me a different take on the genre, and I am no longer so dismissive of those horror stories. It’s a book that I think I need to come back to, and re-read in a few month.
So, again, 5 Stars. Highly, highly recommended. It’s obvious to me that this in not a debut novel. I will seek out the other books by Laura Van Den Berg.
This review will be posted on NetGalley, Amazon, Goodreads, Instagram, Barnes and Noble, iBooks Bookstore, and Facebook.
Don’t bother. And don’t trust reviewers. Amateurly written.