cover image Strange Hotel

Strange Hotel

Eimear McBride. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-27062-9

McBride (A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing) delivers a globe-spanning travelogue set entirely in hotel rooms in this beguiling work. Lists of cities section off the narrative; in those flagged by an x, the protagonist, an unnamed itinerant woman, has experienced a tryst. Rather than chronologically plot these encounters, McBride presents them as a runaway train of the woman’s solipsistic thought as to their significance, leaving her at odds to draw conclusions. After rebuffing one man’s advances, she returns to her room and falls asleep watching loud TV porn. Sex with one man pushes her into suicidal contemplation; sex with another cheers her enough to consider joining him for breakfast the following morning (she doesn’t). In the final scene, McBride switches from third- to first-person narration, at which point the narrator reflects on how her past choices have “absented” her from herself. The linguistic prowess found in McBride’s other books remains present, with the bravado slightly dialed down for emotional effect. McBride’s nebulous formalist structure could be described as a long prose poem masquerading as a novel. As a narrative, though, it is a half-formed thing. (May)