Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
Eimear McBride, the author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, returns with a stunning new novel
In Eimear McBride’s third novel, an unnamed woman enters different hotel rooms in different cities across the world. Over these anonymous hotel stays, a form emerges from the fog of her internal life. The woman is Irish, like McBride herself and her other novels’ protagonists. She is middle-aged and meets men in strange cities but is always careful to keep them at arm’s length. She over-intellectualises situations and scolds herself for this habit. She doesn’t have much time for France and is barely keeping a previous grief at bay. Throughout Strange Hotel, this repressed past constantly threatens to spill through the space between the words.
For half of the slim novel, the narration feels distant from us, often cold, until, suddenly, with the magic alchemy that only novels have, the boundaries between the reader, the writer, the narrator and the character collapse in on each other and there’s only one voice left. No one in contemporary fiction can capture what McBride can: the rich, sometimes excruciating, often humiliating, intimacy of a thought.
But, thankfully, McBride’s linguistic prowess doesn’t remain aloft in an ivory tower. In all her novels, her characters’ emotions are the driving force behind the words. There might be a familiarity to the woman’s internal life, but her form, appetites and identity remain very much her own. McBride is also self-aware, winking at her narrator’s overthinking, and often funny. But mostly, she’s empathetic – to her characters, to her readers and to the secrets, memories and griefs that form our sense of being in this absurd world.
Faber, £12.99, 6 Feb