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The Two Hotel Francforts: A Novel Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596910429
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596910423
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* With his first novel, The Lost Language of Cranes (1986), Leavitt claimed attention as a serious fiction writer, and the publication of his first collection of short stories, Family Dancing (1984), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, alerted readers that he was to be taken as a talented writer in the short form as well. Leavitt’s new novel establishes a brisk pace from page one, corresponding to the jittery atmosphere of the place and time in which it is set: the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, which, in the summer of 1940, is the only neutral port left in Europe. Refugees from the German takeover of most of the continent are gathered in Lisbon awaiting a chance to escape the war’s dangers. Leavitt focuses on two married couples as they pass the tense time until an American ship, the Manhattan, will arrive to carry them and other fortunate ticket-holders to the U.S. With one of the men narrating the novel’s events, recalling them from the distance of several years, we follow the couples as they wait for relief from the dangers closing in and, in the meantime, play their own game of intrigue, not on an international diplomatic level but on a personal and even more confounding level: the two wives having to deal with an affair that quickly ignites between their husbands. The result is a dramatic story that Leavitt weaves with compelling authority and empathy. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The publicity campaign being accorded Leavitt’s new book will include book-club advertising, availability of group reading guides, an author tour, and national review coverage. --Brad Hooper


"Brave and risky... Leavitt is a fluent, clever writer... [with] page-turning craft." - The New York Times Book Review

"Set in the summer of 1940, The Two Hotel Francforts, David Leavitt's lean, stylish novel, unfurls like a classic Hollywood film, crackling with intrigue and illicit romance...[Leavitt] employs coolly elegant prose to evoke the era's glamour and dread... He transports the reader to a wayward world racked by historic upheavel and intimate demons." - O, the Oprah Magazine

"An intriguing tale of love and secrets…The Two Hotel Francforts cuts in two directions at once: It’s a refugee story with something of the atmosphere of an Alan Furst novel, and at the same time it’s the story of a brief but intense gay love affair… Leavitt handles complicated material with proficient craft." - Buffalo News

"Readers who crave... secrets and ambiguities in their fiction will be sated by David Leavitt's deft historical novel, The Two Hotel Francforts." - Wall Street Journal

"Leavitt is superb at comedy of manners, his dialogue is witty and tight and his characters constantly reveal themselves while trying to keep their true feelings hidden... Leavitt has never been in greater command of his talents... In is best work yet, Leavitt is a smart, literate American novelist in the British tradition of Iris Murdoch and E. M. Forster."- Shelf Awareness

"This is a brittle tale told with effortless ease." - Bookpage

"Leavitt brings to mind Edith Wharton and E.M. Forster, two novelists whose pointed observations about class sometimes belied their elegant prose...The Two Hotel Francforts stands with his very best work." - Lambda Literary Review

"[A] smart, well-crafted story... [A] clever, engaging tale of marriage’s hidden shadows, lies, and half-truths." Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Leavitt’s new novel establishes a brisk pace from page... [It's] a dramatic story that Leavitt weaves with compelling authority and empathy." - Booklist, starred review

"Leavitt writes beautifully and fluently, his scenes studded with precise detail... Prove[s] Leavitt as much a master of clarity as he is of confusion." - Gay City News

"Brings to mind the classic film Casablanca... Told from different perspectives, this multilayered tale intrigues with its twists and turns of plot and viewpoint. Leavitt's graceful depiction of same-sex romance will have universal appeal. Highly recommended." - Library Journal

"An artfully crafted story of two marriages... Very fine work." - Kirkus 

"We can always count on David Leavitt to bring buried desires to the surface and give the uncertainties of an era startling clarity in his fiction. Here in his glorious new novel, with his characters on the run from war and suspended in a precarious state of exile, he traces their efforts to create meaningful lives amidst the turmoil surrounding them. The result is a book that is artful, gripping, delicate, and fierce." - Joanna Scott, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of FOLLOW ME


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Customer Reviews

The characters are fascinating.
Kindle Customer
I think the book sags a bit two-thirds of the way through, but the ending does not seem "rushed" to me.
Stephen O. Murray
The characters weren't really anyone I cared much about either.
Wilhelmina Gawdy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wondered why David Leavitt (an excellent writer, by the way) chose to set his new novel in Lisbon in 1940, among a group of expatriate Americans awaiting passage home before Europe is totally engulfed in war. Despite what the jacket suggests, it is not a political novel. It is not even an historical one, in the sense that the previous book of his that I read, THE INDIAN CLERK, preserves a time-capsule of intellectual Cambridge in the early years of the last century. Apart from the curious suspension of reality that besets exiles in an enforced limbo, Leavitt's story could almost have happened anywhere. Apart from -- well, there's the rub. For I think it is exactly this unreality that is important to the author. The cramped conditions, the sense of uncertainty, the foreign environment all combine to create an incubator, a hothouse, in which extraordinary things can happen with unnatural speed. The hothouse atmosphere of Cambridge was vital to the earlier book, and so it is here. This is an author who is interested in Petri dishes -- and in Petri dishes, as we all know, strange and virulent cultures can very quickly grow.

Two couples meet apparently by accident in the first pages: Pete and Julia Winters, and Edward and Iris Freleng. Pete, the narrator, is a former Buick salesman based in Paris. Edward and Iris live off inherited wealth and have a successful sideline as authors of detective novels. Iris is British, the other three American, though Julia has added anxieties being Jewish by birth. As often happens with chance friendships that people strike up abroad, there is something a little too rapid, too intense from the very beginning.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By TeeJay on November 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A bit of a disappointing effort from Leavitt this time. The story is just not as engaging or even as credible as some of his better earlier works. I felt like he found a concept to hang on, and draped a few meager details upon it, just as window dressing. He surely could have gone deeper and developed more engaging characters. Most of all, not one character was remotely likeable, except the dog!

While the ennui of marriage under stressful circumstances (especially war) is an engaging topic, the details of the relationships - particularly between Edward and Iris - strain belief. Likewise, the sudden gay passion upon which the plot revolves pops up from nowhere without any previous intimation, and - after just a very unsatisfying week of rather unlikely fumbling - dissipates before the ship leaves harbor!

Most egregious of all, though: Leavitt's often clever first-person narrative is interrupted at least twice with extended passages in "other voices" that, while moving the dragging plot line forward, seem contrived and are disruptive to the reader.

As I say, disappointing!
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alan Dorfman VINE VOICE on August 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Leavitt's "The Two Hotel Francforts" is about Pete and Julia and Edward and Iris, two ex-patriot couples who meet by chance (or was it?) in 1940 Lisbon, Portugal as they, as thousand of others as well, wait for passage away from Europe and Hitler's blitzkrieg conquest.

Narrated by Pete, an unexceptional mid-westerner who used his brother's corporate connections to get a job selling cars in Paris so that he could make his wife Julia's dreams of escaping New York and her family to live in Paris, the story is often confused, rambling and shakily grounded in reality. There is a semi-surprise ending, which I won't reveal, that Mr. Leavitt chooses to pass off to another narrator inasmuch as the second narrator has a role in that semi-surprise. "The Two Hotel Francforts" then has an epilogue/denouement that feels tossed off, smug and like a teaser for a coming novel.

The author does a great job of explicating the dynamics of relationships and is very insightful in his depiction of his couples. If you read the back cover precis you know that Pete and Edward have a totally unexplainable affair that is the skeleton upon which the novel is built.

As one of the first wave of openly gay writers in the post-Stonewall era, Mr. Leavitt is responsible for gay-lit classics as "The Lost Language Of Cranes,""The Page Turner," and short story collections "Family Dancing" and "The Marble Quilt." In many outposts of the gay literary cosmos he is considered a master writer of prose. The main complaint critics (especially gay critics) is his reticence in writing sex scenes. In "The Two Hotels Francfort," which revolves around a gay sexual affair, he has set himself up to have to include the sex scenes but they are bloodless and unconvincing.
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Format: Hardcover
Lisbon, 1940, provides a temporary safe haven and hope for emigrating citizens from every country in Europe as they try to secure visas for passage by ship - any ship - out of Europe and away from the Nazis. For Americans with valid passports, life is more secure. The U.S. government has commandeered the S. S. Manhattan to transport stranded Americans in Lisbon back to New York. For these people, the biggest challenge is to kill time till the ship sails, and many of them combat their boredom in extravagant fashion. Author David Leavitt, in describing life in Lisbon in these crucial weeks before war engulfs all of Europe, examines four characters - three of them Americans - as they reveal their attitudes toward Europe, toward the United States, and ultimately toward each other.

By using Lisbon primarily as an incidental setting for the characters, not as the primary focus of the novel itself, Leavitt provides an unusual vantage point from which to approach the horrors of the war and its psychological effects on those trying to escape it. Two couples, Pete and Julia Winters, and Edward and Iris Freleng, meet for the first time at the Café Suica, when (in a symbolic moment) Edward Freleng inadvertently crushes Pete's eyeglasses as they fall to the pavement. The couples, both in their early forties, become friendly, though they have little in common. Pete, from Indianapolis, has been working most of his life as a car salesman, while his Jewish wife Julia, from New York, has always dreamed of having an apartment in Paris. Edward and his British wife Iris come from more privileged backgrounds, with Edward admitting that he has "never had a job in [his] life." Together he Frelengs write mystery novels for fun.
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