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Hotel World

Hotel World - Ali Smith Woooooooo- hooooooo is how this book starts.The opening depicts the thoughts of nineteen-year-old chambermaid Sara Wilby as she plummets - and after she has plummeted - four floors down to her death inside a dumb waiter at the hotel where she works. The events of that fateful night are presented from five different viewpoints, one by one, like five interconnected short stories: Firstly Sarah, recalling her final memories as they slowly fade; then Else, a homeless person begging on the street outside. Next is Lisa, the hotel's clock-watching receptionist, who takes Else in and gives her a free room for the night and then Penny, a style-journalist for a broadsheet, who is staying in the hotel (and who isn't the greatest advert for the human race.) Finally there is Clare, Sarah's younger sister. Bereft, she sits across the road from the hotel, waiting for a chance to go inside and see where her sister fell. Written as a stream of consciousness this section is truly moving at times. Sadly, there was one character - Duncan, who was deeply affected by witnessing Sarah's fall - who was not explored. I felt such an affinity for Ali Smith's characters that I was disappointed not to hear his thoughts and feelings. It left a hole in the book. Something missing. Another life lost. An emptiness, like that which is present in the lives of all the characters: there is little interaction between them, and when their paths do cross, it is as strangers - strange ships passing in the night. "Five people: four are living, three are strangers, two are sisters, one is dead" as the blurb on the back of the book puts it. It also quite rightly describes the book as "unsettling and disturbing", exaggeratingly labels it "wildly funny", and very accurately applies the words "haunting" and "mesmerizing". Hotel World is sad but beautiful, with funny intervals. I'm glad I read it, even though it made me feel like a lonely person looking out of a window on a rainy afternoon, while listening to Sting singing "Fragile".{Adapted from a review I posted on dooyoo.co.uk in September 2001.}