The Hotel New Hampshire

The Hotel New Hampshire

by John Irving

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Now available in eBook for the first time in America—the New York Times bestselling saga of a most unusual family from the award-winning author of The World According to Garp.

“The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they “dream on” in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author of A Prayer for Owen Meany and Last Night in Twisted River.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524744816
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/25/2018
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 81,444
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

John Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times—winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules—a film with seven Academy Award nominations.



Date of Birth:

March 2, 1942

Place of Birth:

Exeter, New Hampshire


B.A., University of New Hampshire, 1965; also studied at University of Vienna; M.F.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One — The Bear Called State O’Maine

The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born — we weren’t even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Franny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg. My father and mother were hometown kids who knew each other all their lives, but their “union,” as Frank always called it, hadn’t taken place when Father bought the bear.

“Their ‘union,’ Frank?” Franny used to tease him; although Frank was the oldest, he seemed younger than Franny, to me, and Franny always treated him as if he were a baby. “What you mean, Frank,” Franny said, “is that they hadn’t started screwing.”

“They hadn’t consummated their relationship,” said Lilly, one time; although she was younger than any of us, except Egg, Lilly behaved as if she were everyone’s older sister—a habit Franny found irritating.

“ ‘ Consummated’?” Franny said. I don’t remember how old Franny was at the time, but Egg was not old enough to hear talk like this: “Mother and Father simply didn’t discover sex until after the old man got that bear,” Franny said. “That bear gave them the idea — he was such a gross, horny animal, humping trees and playing with himself and trying to rape dogs.”

“He mauled an occasional dog,” Frank said, with disgust. “He didn’t rape dogs.”

“He tried to,” Franny said. “You know the story.”

“Father’s story,” Lilly would then say, with a disgust slightly different from Frank’s disgust; it was Franny Frank was disgusted with, but Lilly was disgusted with Father.

And so it’s up to me — the middle child, and the least opinionated — to set the record straight, or nearly straight. We were a family whose favorite story was the story of my mother and father’s romance: how Father bought the bear, how Mother and Father fell in love and had, in rapid succession, Frank, Franny, and me (“Bang, Bang, Bang!” as Franny would say); and, after a brief rest, how they then had Lilly and Egg (“Pop and Fizzle,” Franny says). The story we were told as children, and retold to each other when we were growing up, tends to focus on those years we couldn’t have known about and can see now only in those years more clearly than I see them in the years I actually can remember, because those times I was present, of course, are colored by the fact that they were up-and-down times — about which I have up-and-down opinions. Toward the infamous summer of the bear, and the magic of my mother and father’s courtship, I can allow myself a more consistent point of view.

When Father would stumble in telling us the story — when he would contradict an earlier version, or leave out our favorite parts of the tale — we would shriek at him like violent birds.
“Either you’re lying now or you lied the last time,” Franny (always the harshest of us) would tell him, but Father would shake his head, innocently.

“Don’t you understand?” he would ask us. “You imagine the story better than I remember it.”

“Go get Mother,” Franny would order me, shoving me off the couch. Or else Frank would lift Lilly off his lap and whisper to her, “Go get Mother.” And our mother would be summoned as witness to the story we suspected Father of fabricating.

“Or else you’re leaving out the juicy parts on purpose,” Franny would accuse him, “just because you think Lilly and Egg are too young to hear about all the screwing around.”

“There was no screwing around,” Mother would say. “There was not the promiscuity and freedom there is today. If a girl went off and spent the night or weekend with someone, even her peers thought her a tramp or worse; we really didn’t pay much attention to a girl after that. ‘Her kind sticks together,’ we used to say. And ‘Water seeks its own level.’” And Franny, whether she was eight or ten or fifteen or twenty-five, would always roll her eyes and elbow me, or tickle me, and whenever I tickled her back she’d holler, “Pervert! Feeling up his own sister!” And whether he was nine or eleven or twenty-one or forty-one, Frank always hated sexual conversations and demonstrations of Franny’s kind; he would say quickly to Father, “Never mind that. What about the motorcycle?”

“No, go on about the sex,” Lilly would tell Mother, very humorlessly, and Franny would stick her tongue in my ear or make a farting noise against my neck.

“Well,” Mother said, “we did not talk freely of sex in mixed company. “There was necking and petting, light or heavy; it was usually carried on in cars. There were always secluded areas to park. Lots more dirt roads, of course, fewer people and fewer cars — and cars weren’t compact, then.”

“So you could stretch out,” Franny said.

Mother would frown at Franny and persevere with her version of the times. She was a truthful but boring storyteller — no match for my father — and whenever we called Mother on to verify a version of a story, we regretted it.

“Better to let the old man go on and on,” Franny would say. “Mother’s so serious.” Frank would frown. “Oh, go play with yourself, Frank, you’ll feel better,” Franny would tell him.

But Frank would only frown harder. Then he’d say, “If you’d begin by asking Father about the motorcycle, or something concrete, you’d get a better answer than when you bring up such general things: the clothes, the customs, the sexual habits.”

“Frank, tell us what sex is, Franny would say, but Father would rescue us all by saying in his dreamy voice, “I can tell you: it couldn’t have happened today. You may think you have more freedom, but you also have more laws. That bear could not have happened today. He would not have been allowed.” And in that moment we would be silenced, our bickering suddenly over. When Father talked, even Frank and Franny could be sitting together close enough to touch each other and they wouldn’ t fight; I could even be sitting close enough to Franny to feel her hair against my face or her leg against mine, and if Father was talking I wouldn’t think about Franny at all. Lilly would sit deathly still (as only Lilly could) on Frank’s lap. Egg was usually too young to listen, much less understand, but he was a quiet baby. Even Franny could hold him on her lap and he’d be still; whenever I held him on my lap, he fell asleep.

“He was a black bear,” Father said; “he weighed four hundred pounds and was a trifle surly.”

“Ursus americanus,” Frank would murmur. “And he was unpredictable.”

“Yes,” Father said, “but good-natured enough, most of the time.”

“He was too old to be a bear anymore,” Franny said, religiously.

That was the line Father usually began with — the line he began with the first time I remember being told the story. “He was too old to be a bear anymore.” I was in my mother’s lap for this version, and I remember how I felt fixed forever to this time and place: Mother’s lap, Franny in Father’s lap beside me, Frank erect and by himself — sitting cross-legged on the shabby oriental with our first family dog, Sorrow (who would one day be put to sleep for his terrible farting). “He was too old to be a bear anymore.” Father began. I looked at Sorrow, a witless and loving Labrador, and he grew on the floor to the size of a bear and then aged, sagging beside Frank in smelly dishevelment, until he was merely a dog again (but Sorrow would never be “merely a dog”).

That first time I don’t remember Lilly or Egg — they must have been such babies that they were not present, in a conscious way. “He was too old to be a bear anymore,” Father said. “He was on his last legs.”

“But they were the only legs he had!” we would chant, our ritual response — learned by heart — Frank, Franny, and I all together. And when they got the story down pat, eventually Lilly and even Egg would join in.

“The bear did not enjoy his role as an entertainer anymore,” Father said. “He was just going through the motions. And the only person or animal or thing he loved was that motorcycle. That’s why I had to buy the motorcycle when I bought the bear. That’s why it was relatively easy for the bear to leave his trainer and come with me; the motorcycle meant more to that bear than any trainer.”

And later, Frank would prod Lilly, who was trained to ask, “What was the bear’s name?”
And Frank and Franny and Father and I would shout, in unison, “State o’ Maine!” That dumb bear was named State o’ Maine, and my father bought him in the summer of 1939 — together with a 1937 Indian motorcycle with a homemade sidecar — for 200 dollars and the best clothes in his summer footlocker.

Reading Group Guide

1. When Freud gives his blessing to John's mother and father in 1939 at Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea, he tells Mother, "Forgive him, even though it will cost you." What do you think Freud was referring to? A specific event or Father's lifelong dreaminess?

2. Irving frequently gives the reader an important piece of information (such as that the Mercedes in front of the Vienna Hotel was a bomb) then unspools in detail the lead-up to the action. Did you find this to be an effective method of engaging the reader? Can you think of other authors who use a similar narra-tive technique?

3. John and Franny's love for each other form the novel's sometimes tense but always solid core. As you read, how did you expect Irving to resolve the sexual attraction? How did John's acceptance of his feelings for Franny affect your view of their relationship?

4. The author and the first-person protagonist are both named John. John is also the protagonist's name in Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. What do you think this name choice says about the author's intentions for the fictional John?

5. Sorrow the dog is far more potent in death than he was in life; a harbinger, if not an actual instrument, of doom for Iowa Bob, John's romp with Bitty Tuck, and Mother and Egg. When Frank and John see Susie the bear in Franny's room, they imagine that she looks like Sorrow and may be Sorrow in disguise. Do you think Susie reflects Sorrow or is she an agent of fortune for the family? Did the later appearance of Seeing Eye dogs make you wonder if Sorrow had resurfaced?

6. Win Berry says that Earl/State o' Maine was "too old to be a bear anymore," and later Freud writes, "A smart bear makes all the difference." Ironically, the old bear is the actual bear, while the smart bear is a vulnerable, angry woman. What characteristics does Irving associate with being a successful bear? Do you think that Susie eventually incorporates her bear exterior into her interior self?

7. Several themes are threaded through The Hotel New Hampshire, such as Sorrow as doom and the strength of bears. What other images, themes, or phrases did you find repeated in the story? If you've read other novels or stories by John Irving, discuss any themes that are common to those works and The Hotel New Hampshire.

8. With the exception of John's mother, nearly all the women in this novel take money for sex, have been raped, or seem asexual. Why do you think the author created his characters this way? How do the women characters' sexual experiences compare to the men's? Do these women's sexuality propel the story as much as Win Berry's dreams?

9. After their mother and Egg die, Franny tells her surviving siblings, "From now on, I'm mainly a mother.... The shit detectors are gone, so I'm left to detect it. I point out the shit--that's my role." Do you think this was their mother's role--and every mother's role? Does Franny do a good job being a mother? In what ways does she succeed or fail?

10. While in Vienna, Win Berry's children often agree that their father is "blind" long before he literally is. Do you think Win Berry's physical blindness "opened his eyes"? How much of his personality seems to be his own and how much of it is Freud's? After becoming a blind hero in Vienna, does Win veer closer to becoming like Freud or does he start treading his own path?

11. Why do the old whore and the old radical have the same name, Old Billig? Why are they referred to as billig, or "cheap"?

12. Do you see the years spent in Vienna as a time of metamorphosis or a time of hibernation for the Berrys? Who changes the most during that time?

13. When John ponders how little he knows about Vienna after living there for seven years, he thinks, "I knew about my family, I knew about our whores, and our radicals; I was an expert on the Hotel New Hampshire and an amateur at anything else." Does the focus on the family expand or stunt the individual growth of the Berry family members? At the end, do you think that John has, in essence, made a career of being an expert on the Hotel New Hampshire?

14. "Keep passing the open windows" is a common refrain among the Berrys. Did you suspect that one family member would fail to do this, and did you guess who it would be?

15. In examining the motivation of blowing up the Opera, John thinks, "The terrorist and the pornographer are in it for the means. The means is everything for them." Do you agree? Do you think pornographers and terrorists have the same internal drive?

16. If you could read the story of the Berry family from the point of view of another character, who would you choose and why?

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The Hotel New Hampshire 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read several Irving works, including THE WOLRD ACCORDING TO GARP and A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, but this, for me is his truly great work. I think it goes without saying that Irving is one of the most talented writers to date his narratives are strong and his work is almost always character drive, something I find in the novels of Jackson McCrae and Saul Bellow. Also, he somehow manages to show us the underside of humanity without us feeling violated. He manages this perfectly in HOTEL. With a little of everything from adolescent angst, to a bear, to the family's travails in various places, HOTEL is a myriad of fun, sadness, and a family saga that is like no other. As I said before, Irving's works are character driven, and of course you're going to find odd characters, just as you would in McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD (which is outstanding, by the way), or in the works of Palahniuk. But Irving gives his characters something no one else does, and it's a 'can't quite put my finger on it' something that makes them so real, so alive, that when you finish the book, you're sad to have to close the pages. Now, there are some parts of the book that are REALLY going to turn some people off, such as the brother-sister thing that goes on. Frankly, I'm shocked more people haven't written about this, but somehow Irving pulls even this taboo topic off. One of the things I like about his books, and this one in particular, is the fact that he gives us the story, then steps back and lets us decide about the characters and what's happened. A sort of Ibsen approach to the text. In this way he takes the element of himself out of the story and all that's left is the narrative. While this is certainly not a new book, I highly recommend it, along with the novels BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and the ever popular THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, both which are very good and will keep you flipping the pages. Also anything else by Irving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow. This book is amazing. There are so many 'little stories' contained in the main plot. The characters are all so unique... and FUNNY. They had me laughing everytime I picked up the book. Parts of the book are slightly disgusting, but hey, it keeps it pretty interesting, too. If you can get past the few sex scenes, it's a FABULOUS book. There are unexpected twists and turns through out the entire book, keeping your attention. John Irving is an amazing writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read The Hotel New Hampshire a few years ago and truly did not care for it. It's well written, but I think it appeals to a narrow audience. It's also a strange book, but not interesting enough for me to recommend.
Anonymous 4 months ago
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Berry family is an odd mix of eccentrics who seem perfectly normal to each other. There¿s Frank, the introverted eldest son, Franny, a strange extrovert with no concept of boundaries, our narrator John, Lily the youngest daughter who can¿t seem to grow and Egg, the youngest son, who is hard of hearing and constantly changing costumes. Throw in a pet bear, a weight-lifting grandpa, a dog named Sorrow and a few more odd balls and you¿ve got a story¿. kind of. The family lives in and runs two hotels over the course of their childhood. One is actually in New Hampshire; the other is in Vienna, Austria. Their lives are complicated by loss and inappropriate love. The author loves jarring readers out of their comfort zones when they¿re reading his books. I feel like every time I read one of his books, as soon as I start relaxing into the story he does something awful and kills off a major character or throw in a disturbing twist. Irving has a serious obsession with sex in his books, particularly young men with older women. This made a lot more sense to me after I read an interview where he talked about that being his own first sexual experience. Still it¿s always slightly irked me because it often feels forced in the flow of the story. This book kind of takes the odd sex stuff to an extreme. There¿s rape, incest and prostitution, yet somehow the book is not heavy or depressing because it¿s all done with a jovial tone. Like I said, it¿s really odd. It¿s also hard to explain how you can like and dislike a book at the same time. I thought parts of it were incredibly funny, but others just overwhelmed me with their dysfunction. BOTTOM LINE: I want to like Irving¿s work more than I do. I really loved A Prayer for Owen Meany and would recommend that one, but his other books don¿t seem to work for me. There¿s too much of an emphasis on sex, troubled relationships with older women or relatives, etc. However, his writing is incredibly entertaining and I found myself enjoying the book as I was reading it, but then it lost me somewhere along the way. I stopped rooting for the characters and became too distracted by their problems. I think after this, my third Irving, I¿m done with him for awhile. I¿ll try him again in 10 years.
Scoshie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of John Irvings more bizarre stories. Of course if you havent read about poor Sorrow then you dont know what you are missing. Wonderful story and well worht the purchsae price
DelennDax7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I must have read this about 20 years ago or so. I could hardly put it down! But, be's very intense and I wouldn't recommend anyone reading it when they're in a serious depression. But, I love this kind of stuff. The characters are so real and you really get into their minds. Great book!
Glorybe1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book by John Irving, he is such a great writer. The story is made up of larger than life characters (except Lily!) they are all sooo quirky and unusual, but all quite believable!The Berry family consisting of Win and his wife(who I don't think we get the name of!) There is Frank the eldest who is homosexual, there is John who is the narrator of the story,there is Franny, who John is in love with (just a little incest to throw into the mix!!) Lily is next and Lily just can't grow! she is tiny and has a talent for writting, and last but not least is Egg the youngest of the Berry family, who spends his time in his own little world and can't hear what is being said to him! Priceless the lot of them a very funny read although taking in some hefty subjects such as rape and Death all dealt with in the usual Irving witty way. And John Irvings books wouldn't be the same without a Bear to get it all going!! 5 stars from me!
barefeet4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It made me laugh out loud; it made me want to cry.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is great! A very inventive family drama that turns pleasingly strange at all the write moments!
Doondeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My least favorite Iriving book. Probably turned off by the incest.
bherner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What is it with Irving a dress dummies? Prominent in both this book and A Prayer for Owen Meany. Very strange.
samantha464 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first "grown-up" book I ever read. I love the zany characters and Irving's typical too far-fetched to believe plot lines. Yet despite all the over-the-top antics of the characters and their ridicolous quirks, I can't help but feel for them and find myself caught up in the same insanity that defines their world.
hockeycrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite John Irving, but still an entertaining read. As often happens in John Irving books the book takes place in both New Hampshire and Europe.The reoccuring theme of the bear is definately interesting.
rcooper3589 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
talk about taboos! this is such a great story! i loved the ending!
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic Irving. If you are a John Irving fan, this is a must read.
Crystalee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haha. This was probably the second book by John Irving that I read (the first was The Cider House Rules and let me just say they are nothing alike) and the book that got me hooked. I LOVE Irving's quirky characters, the fact that bears run rampid in his novels, and their morals that don't seem quite like morals. Great, funny (but bizzarre, I warn you!) book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving is an interesting novel to say the least. There is a lot going on in the story, for me it was too much, but nonetheless I did enjoy parts of it. I enjoyed the beginning more than the end because it wasn't as unusual, the characters seem normal and don't posses nearly as many strange quirks. My main issue with the novel is the strange-ness and how unreal it seemed; the things in the novel may be possible but not necessarily all in the same story. From the perspective of the middle child, this novel depicts the life of a family that starts off seemingly normal. Then the father becomes obsessed with a certain lifestyle involving bears and living in hotels and that's the start of the unusual sense of the novel. There are a lot of interesting/different events that occur, especially towards the end, and the end, although strange, is a good end to the novel. Throughout the entire novel, the characters just have too much going on and the novel in general does too. Death, rape, sorrow, and dreams are oddly enough what I thought to be the main ideas/themes and I'm not sure that a novel really needs all of them together. John Irving intended this for an older audience, and I think that's part of why I didn't enjoy it as much. I think if I would have had more experiences in life maybe it wouldn't have seemed so strange and unusual to me. The novel was also vulgar. Offensive language, sexuality, and bad natured ideas have a common occurrence. In addition, some of the ideas and characters just don't appeal to a younger audience.
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ReaderRG More than 1 year ago
Have read most of Irving's work, but missed this one! Truly HUMAN! Funny, disrespectful, sad, outrageous at times; a truly good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago