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The Frangipani Hotel: Fiction Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 1, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Set in Vietnam and the U.S., these stories integrate the darker elements of Vietnamese folklore and myth. The nine pieces of short fiction feature a variety of characters who come from different economic and educational backgrounds and often spotlight relations among family members. In “Reception,” the slowly unfolding narrative encompasses the family running the Hotel Frangipani, an American businessman, and the beautiful manifestation of a local spirit. Internal tensions among characters propel narratives and create a suspenseful atmosphere. “Guests” features an American woman employed by the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, her Canadian lover, and the people, local and expatriate, who surround them. Readers get to decide the outcome of several of the stories. One with an ambiguous ending, “Red Veil,” begins in a Catholic convent, alternates between modern and historic Vietnam, and spotlights the tragedy of two sisters, a new stepmother, and the revenge of a human channel for the spirits of the dead. This first collection introduces a writer to watch and belongs in any library serving a short story readership. --Ellen Loughran


“[A] subversively clever debut collection . . . These stories—playful, angry, at times legitimately scary—demonstrate a subtlety of purpose that belies [Kupersmith’s] youth.”The New York Times Book Review

“A series of magical, beautiful, modern stories, all based on traditional Vietnamese folktales, this is the product of a great writer who invokes the ghosts of the land that was left behind.”San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] sparkling debut. The stories in this collection by Violet Kupersmith fuse traditional Vietnamese ghost stories with the ghost of the Vietnam War and update them as they play out for those who remained in the country and those who fled. . . . These are stories written from wildly different perspectives, and yet the ghosts feel vitally familiar. There’s a lightness of touch to these stories, which are playful and wise, an astonishing feat for a young writer who graduated from Mount Holyoke College three years ago.”Chicago Tribune (editor’s choice)

“Violet Kupersmith has woven together culture, tradition, family, and ghosts to create a series of short stories that are as fresh as they are mesmerizing. These stories will haunt you long after the last words have drifted off the page.”—Lisa See

“In this auspicious volume, Kupersmith has reshaped and womanhandled traditional Vietnamese folktales that her grandmother told her into a wildly energetic, present-tense fusillade of short stories. . . . In perhaps the most pungent story here, a young woman who works the graveyard shift stocking shelves at Kwon’s World Grocery in suburban Houston befriends an old man she finds standing naked beside a Dumpster. His problem: He occasionally turns into a fourteen-foot python. ‘I am just a very old man who is sometimes a python,’ the man tells the woman. ‘But you, my child, are a creature far more complex.’ One might suspect that Kupersmith, who is working on her first novel, is that creature.”—Ben Dickinson, Elle

“[A] compelling brand of magic realism . . . enthralling stories . . . a collection teeming with detail and personality.”Asian Review of Books

“Chilling and lovely . . . Kupersmith has combined traditional storytelling with a post-modern sense of anxiety and darkness, and the result is captivating.”Bookreporter

“The stories shimmer with life. The heat and tumult of Vietnam’s cities are palpable, and the awed wonderment of humans confronted with supernatural occurrences is artfully conveyed. These polished stories mark Kupersmith, who is in her early twenties, as one to watch.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Warning: [The Frangipani Hotel] might haunt you. . . . Young Kupersmith, not yet twenty-five years old, seems to be channeling the literary spirit of Isak Dinesen in these Vietnamese tales as they morphed into completely up-to-date short stories. . . . Kupersmith has the same ability as Dinesen’s to turn ordinary events into magical dreamworlds, sometimes even before the reader notices the shift. . . . These short stories originated in tales her Vietnamese grandmother told Kupersmith throughout her childhood. They take place now, in Vietnam and in Houston, with cellphones, low-level Texas hoodlums and drowned water sprites coexisting with ghosts returning from times long past. The naked seventy-year-old man hiding behind a Houston convenience store worries about a frightening metamorphosis he undergoes with increasing frequency.”The Buffalo News
“Surgically precise and feverishly imaginative.”—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
“What is most haunting in Kupersmith’s nine multilayered pieces are not the specters, whose tales are revealed as stories within stories, but the lingering loss and disconnect endured by the still living. . . . [A] mature-beyond-her-years debut.”Library Journal (starred review)
“Each of the stories is replete with characters both fabulous and ordinary, stories out of this world and firmly rooted in it. Each is meticulously told by a storyteller talented and wise beyond her years.”Shelf Awareness

“This first collection introduces a writer to watch and belongs in any library serving a short story readership.”Booklist

“In this impressive debut, Violet Kupersmith displays a remarkable gift for voice and setting. Using history and horror, mystery and imagination, she has created this vivid collection of haunted and haunting stories. Highly recommended.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
“These stories start out humbly, workaday, and would be happy to go on that way but are surprised by the entry of some unearthly demon. Then our great joy is to watch them try to carry on with their simple, daily world, in spite of the transfiguring radiance of the supernatural. Kupersmith is more than a powerful writer: She’s already been admitted into the secret circle of Isak Dinesen and Isaac Babel and Sylvia Townsend Warner. She’s a true storyteller, and a demon herself.”—George Dawes Green, founder of The Moth and author of The Caveman’s Valentine and Ravens
“Everyone will talk about how young, how mature and talented beyond her years Violet Kupersmith is, but in reading these stories of ghosts both ancestral and infernal, you’ll become convinced Kupersmith herself is of the spirit world—transcending time, nationality, gender, and place. Rarely does a writer of any age conjure a book so deftly funny and yet so deadly serious. Read it, remember it, and then breathlessly await her next one.”—Sheri Holman, author of Witches on the Road Tonight and The Dress Lodger
“Violet Kupersmith writes about both the Old World and the New World with an understanding beyond her years. These stories weave beautifully together to give us a rich tapestry of human history, and present an exciting new voice.”—Yiyun Li, author of Kinder Than Solitude
“The haunted world of The Frangipani Hotel teems with sensuous and exuberant life. Terror and wonder walk hand in hand. There are ghosts in the air (and in the lake), but there’s nothing insubstantial about them. These ghosts are boisterous and malign, driven by powerful passions even they don’t understand. Whether they issue from the war-torn past, the insatiable appetite of nature, or the sinister terrain of the human unconscious is anybody’s guess. One thing is certain: They’re not going away until the reader too is entirely entranced and captivated.”—Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, Mary Reilly, and Property, winner of the Orange Prize

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993318
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,287,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brendan Moody VINE VOICE on March 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Too often the literary ghost story is something old-fashioned and obvious, neither chilling nor insightful. That's what makes Violet Kupersmith's debut collection so impressive: its nine stories are at once spooky and unsettling in a more profound sense. Promotional material for THE FRANGIPANI HOTEL has focused on the latter quality, which might give the impression that this is one of those collections where the ghosts are merely quaint metaphors, but fear not: they have teeth. Kupersmith is particularly good at those gradually increasing hints of something amiss that are part of the counterintuitive pleasure of being scared by our entertainments. She also has a pleasantly light touch, avoiding the dreary explanations that drag down workmanlike ghost stories. Yhe otherworldly creatures here may be drawn from Vietnamese legend, but Kupersmith wisely avoids exposition, allowing their sinister appetites and shadowy affinities to remain as mysterious as the supernatural in fiction should be. This blend of classical style and unfamiliar subject matter is just what many ghost story enthusiasts will be looking for.

But of course the promotional material is right: there's more to these stories than the spirits. Kupersmith's prose is on the flat side, with language that's sometimes casual or compressed to the point of inelegance, especially in third-person stories where there's no narrator to cover it. But she knows how to capture a setting without belaboring its details, and what's more important, she can cut right to the heart of whatever issue she's dealing with.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's hard to believe that author Violet Kupersmith only graduated from college in 2011 and that The Frangipani Hotel is her first book. This collection of short stories is so mature, confident and accomplished that a writer three times her age would be proud to claim it as his/her own. That she wrote many while still in college makes them even more remarkable.

Each of the stories has an element of the supernatural, real or imagined, and all are reportedly based on traditional Vietnamese stories. Kupersmith is a fluent--and fluid--storyteller who knows how to capture your attention and then take you in directions you don't expect. Ordinary people leading humdrum lives cross paths with malevolent spirits, grateful shapeshifters, vengeful ghosts, yet often those encounters are subtle, fleeting and/or perplexing. Set both in Vietnam and America, her tales are haunted as much by the two countries' shared past as they are by the other-worldly creatures who inhabit them.

Reading The Frangipani Hotel is like taking a vacation from the everyday, and I highly recommend it. Five enthusiastic stars and votes of confidence in this young, extraordinarily talented writer. Violet Kupersmith is definitely someone to watch.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I received an electronic advanced reading copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley.

Caught between two worlds. This statement could apply equally to the living characters in this collection of short stories, and the ghosts that haunt them. The types of ghosts vary between stories and even within, from the literal sense, to the metaphoric sense of past history haunting the present, or a distant homeland or heritage haunting new life in America. United by shadows of Vietnam, its culture, and these themes of haunting and straddling worlds, Kupersmith's debut is quite impressive.

Though featuring ghosts, these stories fit into a genre category of fantasy more than horror, except in a very classical sense. None of the stories are particularly scary, though they are spiced with an atmosphere, or at times an ambiguity that could be considered disturbing. Although being grounded in Vietnamese culture and traditional ghost stories, these tales remind me greatly both in content and style of the classic ghost stories by M.R. James, a type of Vietnamese gothic if one can imagine that. Beyond genre, they can quite easily be classified as literary, with a rich, descriptive style of sentences that sing atmospheric melodies in the reader's ear to firmly establish the mood of the collection, taking the setting beyond exotic to eerie.
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Format: Hardcover
A young man meets a mysterious woman in his place of employment, and she alters his perception of reality. A truck driver gives a young boy a ride and discovers that his passenger’s motives don’t include gratitude. A young woman helps an elderly gentleman, only to discover that he lives a secret life. Violet Kupersmith gives all of her characters the background of the Vietnam War in her enriching debut with her short story collection The Frangipani Hotel.

The collection opens with the charming “Boat Story,” a conversation between a grandmother and her grandchild about the grandmother’s migration to the new world. “Guests” lets readers peek into the life of a woman working in the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City; she interviews people requesting visas to and dual citizenship with the States. A poet, a calligrapher, and a guitarist come together for their weekly meeting, only to discover that one of them has hidden a secret for many years in “One-Finger.” In “Reception,” the story that gives the collection its name, the main character meets an uninvited guest in the hotel that his family owns and where he works; he spends several days trying to keep her a secret while simultaneously trying to discover her identity.

Kupersmith shares in these stories and the five others in the book her Vietnamese background. Her grandmother shared folk tales and stories of ghosts with Kupersmith who, in turn, used those folk tales and ghost stories to provide the bare bones for her work. The result: stories that give readers the opportunity to learn about another culture while maintaining the universality of life situations.
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