I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Time and the Woman

Time and the Woman

Declan O’Driscoll
Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride, Faber & Faber, 149 pp, £12.99, ISBN: 978-0571355143 A woman stands on an exposed balcony outside a hotel in Prague. She draws slowly on a cigarette and looks to be deep in thought. It might just be boredom, or she may be thinking about what it would be like to jump from there onto the rained-upon street below. It could well be a scene from a Michelangelo Antonioni film, with the woman played by Monica Vitti. But it’s not a film. It is one of the elaborately detailed scenes from Eimear McBride’s novel Strange Hotel. As such it might fit better with the time when films like Antonioni’s could be made and receive acclaim or, more especially, when a group of French writers such as Nathalie Sarraute and those others associated with the nouveau roman began to reject the confines of plot and linear narrative development and concentrate instead on the interior mind of characters and their surroundings, with sometimes exhaustive precision. Strange Hotel presents us with a woman (or is it a series of women, as in Eva Figes’s Days, with which it also has a certain kinship?) at various stages of her life, presented within the confines of a hotel room, but on each occasion in a different city, beginning in Avignon, then Prague, Oslo, Auckland and Austin. There is, though, a twist at the end. Not a plot twist, because there is no plot. This is a change of perspective and location, although again, the veracity of the details is deliberately smudged. So what are we left with ‑ in a novel with no momentum, centred on a character with no name ‑ and why would we want to keep reading? There is firstly the association and experience we may ourselves have with hotel rooms. There is the excitement or let-down of opening the door (whether with a key or a card; both are used and mulled over in the novel) and decisions about how to act within that space. It is something Joanna Walsh explored very well in her book Hotel: “The eternal hotel-room question is what am I allowed?” It’s a question pursued throughout Strange Hotel. “To do To do. She seeks tasks to do but can’t find them anywhere.” This woman is, she tells us thirty-five years old. She has been in this room before or if not this exact room then one very like it….

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