Eimear McBride – Strange Hotel

Third novel from author of A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing leaves an impression upon the senses

Eimear McBride's 2013 novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing was one of the most astonishing literary works of the decade just past. Its raw-nerve prose and harrowing portrayal of sexual abuse garnered it many deserved accolades. Broken sentences and jagged punctuation, in the first-person and present tense, brought the narrator's thoughts jolting into the reader's mind. The follow-up, 2016's The Lesser Bohemians, continued to display this masterfully original writing style, where sharp splinters of prose lacerate the pages.

So it is a surprise to open McBride's third book, the slim and silver-covered Strange Hotel, and to read delicate, mannerly sentences in the third person. Here, the narrator speaks with languor. She describes the world with an elegant, world-weary wit. Within this new style and tone, McBride returns to some of her signature themes: grief, alcohol, desire and a woman's sexual experience. That experience is presented this time through the inner dialogues of a middle-ageing woman as she casts a critical eye over a succession of hotel room interiors. She criticises the fittings and the views and persuades herself to order wine from room service. She carefully avoids any thoughts which might lead her mind down the path of regret. The regrets hover, though, and sometimes they slip sadly in. Sometimes, to forget, she seeks out a solitary man in the hotel bar and takes him to her room. Sometimes this works.

Strange Hotel is a minor work in a minor key, but it leaves an impression upon the senses. It can be read in one long sitting and allowed to linger. You will be left with the distinct sense that you, too, have stared out from hotel balconies on grey mornings in Avignon, in Prague, in so many other cities around the world, telling yourself not to feel lonely.

Out 4 February via Faber & Faber.

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