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The White Hotel Paperback – September 1, 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A novel of blazing imaginative and intellectual force.”—Salman Rushdie 

“To describe this novel as spine-tingling in its indescribable poetic effect would be to trivialize its profoundly tragic theme. Say then that it is heart-stunning.”—The New York Times
 
“Astonishing . . . elegantly experimental yet quite warm . . . A forthright sensuality mixed with a fine historical feeling for the nightmare moments in modern history, a dreamlike fluidity and quickness.”—John Updike, The New Yorker
 
“A dazzler that lingers in the mind.”—People

About the Author

D. M. Thomas is the author of the novel The White Hotel. He has translated works by Akhmatova and Pushkin.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140231730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140231731
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I could throw around superlatives and they would not have much impact. Too many reviews are written about mediocre books that one would think them, from the reviewers reaction, modern masterpieces. "Flawlessly-rendered scenes of incomparably lyrical, powerful, acute, seamless, ineffable, gorgeous, unassailable, tender, dynamic, lush, titillating, cerebral, divine, a libidinous, self-revelatory paean to the inexpressible in art and life that packs an emotional wallop!," or some such phrase.
Sometimes a person just has to come right out and say "This one grabbed me by the rear," and let it go at that. This is a book that really has to be experienced first-hand. My only word of advice is not to give up on the book too soon. It's absolutely unclear in the first 40 or 50 pages where Thomas is taking you and he doesn't present too promising a train ride at that stage. Settle in for the journey. Look out the window and watch as the landscape starts becoming more recognizable. The landmarks with which you thought you were earlier familiar, start revealing themselves in entirely new patterns. For this is a novel about revelation, more than anything else. Readers just have to trust that "all will be revealed" by novel's end, and it is, magnificently.
Thomas performs a near-miraculous feat in this novel. Reading The White Hotel is akin to looking through a an extremely high-powered telescope and what at first looks likes fuzzy, indiscreet blurs, become unbelievably colorful and complex nebulae and galaxies as the instrument's focus is adjusted. The book begins with a long poem, full of erotic imagery and near-incoherent description, that we are startled to learn is written by a woman.
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Format: Paperback
The White Hotel is a work of such genius that it deserves to be read by all. The story which connects a nuerotic opera singer in the 1920's who is treated by Sigmund Freud and the holocaust of world war two is both deeply moving and shocking. The first half, through the use of poetry, letters, pschological analysis and dreams gives the reader great insight into the main protagonist's mind and life. The second half sets her life among the many who are trapped in the winds of hell that was the holocaust. Thomas shows us that each life is valuable and by focussing on one who would perish in the murder at Babi Yar he reenforces the truth that terms such as "holocaust" leave us unconnected with the reality of the horror, and thus allows us to forget. By depicting one persons fragility and inner thoughts the reader cannot dissasociate themselves from her death. The novel leaves the reader gasping for breath and led me to stare blankly afterwards lost in the possibilty that such inhumanity towards fellow human beings is possible. This novel, Solzhenitsen's work and others such as Primo Levi ensure that the mass murders of millions this century will never be forgotten. It is a great read, poetical and at times frankly realistic, and most importantly, it is a work which (something so rare nowdays) deserves to be read
1 Comment 33 of 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
D. M. Thomas' accomplishment in The White Hotel is unutterably profound. The book's power has stayed with me for more than twenty years and I will take its redemptive force with me to my grave. His prose has the force of the finest classical poetry inflamed with the psyche's deepest passions. The tale he tells of Lisa Erdman through three breath-taking almost musical variations on the seminal events of her life make a novel of unsurpassed humanity and give the reader the effect of having been immolated by the ineffable mystery of existence.
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By A Customer on March 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the kind of book you need to read twice, at least. The second time I read it was when I realized that the long, surrealistic dream-poem in the first part was actually a premonition of horrific events to come. Lisa is haunted by this premonition her entire life, seeking psychiatric therapy to explain it. She is also haunted by mysterious "hysterical" pains in the parts of her body that, years later, will be brutalized. I love touches in the poem like the orange trees falling into the lake and vanishing -- a premonition of her brief hope of her and Kolya going to Israel - a hope which is also defeated. Faced with the horrifying premonition of the Holocaust, Lisa's psyche chooses to change the horror into something beautiful and mysterious -- the White Hotel.
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Format: Paperback
An extraordinary book, historical in its way, yet put together like the movements of a musical composition. Introduced by Sigmund Freud, the book's first three movements consist of the erotic fantasies and case-history of one of his female patients, overlapping, expanding, and gradually turning into almost normal narrative. But then the story takes a different course with the convulsions of the century, and becomes a testament of the Holocaust, harrowing and chillingly authentic. Only at the end does the fantasy element return, pulling together the earlier themes into a kind of benediction. I originally questioned whether the book cohered as a whole, but as it has lingered in my memory I have become aware of structural unities that are entirely satisfying.

I am submitting this review after also reading W.G. Sebald's AUSTERLITZ, another Holocaust novel that stalks its subject from an unexpected angle. It makes me wonder whether the frontal approach of straight narrative is possible any more, but here are two masterpieces that not only succeed brilliantly in their own genre but chart new directions for the modern novel as a whole. Both writers recognize that some events are so powerful as to warp the consciousness of entire generations. While Sebald looks for traces of this trauma like an archaeologist studying past artifacts, Thomas moves in the opposite direction, starting at the beginning of the century, when Freudian psychology made it possible for the first time to trace the rifts in the human psyche that would ultimately lead to such inhumanity.
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