Flashback Friday: The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

(published 1981)

I went through a John Irving phase during my college years and immediately thereafter, during which I read, pretty much sequentially, all of the author’s early works, including the more obscure Setting Free The Bears, The Water-Method Man, and The 158-Pound Marriage, as well as the extremely popular The World According To Garp. The one that probably struck the deepest chord with me, however, was The Hotel New Hampshire. So what’s it all about?

From Goodreads:

“The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they “dream on” in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author of A Prayer for Owen Meany and Last Night in Twisted River.

This family drama features large and small moments; quiet tragedies and devastating hurts; and above all, love, strangeness, and connection. I adore John Irving’s writing in this novel. His quirky and deceptive use of language sneaks up on you at times, so that I’d find myself doing double-takes and saying, “Wait! What just happened there?”

It’s been many years since I’ve read The Hotel New Hampshire and the other early John Irving books, but I still have my ragged copies of all of these. There are some books that you just can’t part with, after all.

PS – Yes, there is a movie version. And yes, it’s pretty awful. Skip it, and read the book instead.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

4 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

  1. Another Great Friday Flashback Pick!!

    Throwing Hermann Hesse’s “Narcissus and Goldmund” in the ring!
    This is a great story of fate and destiny and remains one of my all time favorite book.
    Contrasts the artist and the thinker in this story of a passionate yet uneasy friendship between two men of opposite character. Narcissus, an ascetic instructor at a cloister school, has devoted himself solely to scholarly and spiritual pursuits. One of his students is the sensual, restless Goldmund, who is immediately drawn to his teacher’s fierce intellect and sense of discipline. When Narcissus persuades the young student that he is not meant for a life of self-denial, Goldmund sets off in pursuit of aesthetic and physical pleasures and the path that leads him to a final, unexpected reunion with Narcissus.
    First published in 1930 and still a great classic!

    It can be found at Amazon:

  2. To back away a bit from the intimidating CLASSICS that dot my dusty shelves, one book that continues to come back to me is Tony Early’s, Jim the Boy, published in 2000. But as with many books that I have grown to love, I first read it at exactly the right moment for it to have lasting impact. I’ve read it twice since. It continues to resonate in my mind often.

    • I’m often hesitant to revisit a book I’ve loved in the past, wondering whether at a different stage of my life I would enjoy it less and not wanting to affect the good memories. I’m glad to hear that this book still holds its magic for you! It sounds lovely.

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