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Latest Review: "Hotel Iris" by Yoko Ogawa

The “latest addition”: to our “Reviews Section” is a piece by Will Eells on Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris, which is translated from the Japanese by superstar Stephen Snyder and published by Picador.

This is the third Ogawa book available in English, and we’ve actually reviewed all three. (I wasn’t a fan of The Diving Pool, but Will had some nice things to say about The Housekeeper and the Professor.)

Unfortunately, although this book sounds to me like the most interesting of the three, Will wasn’t entirely convinced:

Reading Hotel Iris, the latest Yoko Ogawa book to be published in English, may be quite a jarring experience for those who have read Ogawa’s last novel, The Housekeeper and the Professor. Although they share a common theme of unconventional love, the two works could not be more dissimilar in tone and atmosphere. The Housekeeper and the Professor is light and heartwarming with a touch of the bittersweet. Hotel Iris, on the other hand, is dark and twisted, with only a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Mari, the narrator, is a seventeen-year old girl living in a remote seaside town, working the front desk of the family hotel with only her controlling mother and a part-time, kleptomaniac maid. For better or worse her father is long dead, as is the grandfather who helped raise her afterward. Her life is suddenly shook up when a fight between a middle-aged man and the prostitute he hired erupts in the middle of the night. Mari is drawn to this mysterious and harsh man, a widow and Russian translator who lives alone on a nearby island, and so she seeks him out. Thus begins the strange and twisted relationship between the two that is the focus of the rest of the novel.

Click here to read the full review.



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