jamiebowen0306 (jamiebowen0306) wrote,

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I finished "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving today.

Back when I was 10 or 11, I was sent to get tested for dyslexia by my teachers (I went to boarding school so they could do that sort of thing, I'd been tested for autism when I was 4 or 5 (I'm not autistic apparently, "just a weird boy who fizzles about like a demented firework" according to a teacher at the time (which is a verbatim copy of what he said and is something I will remember to the day I die) and had my IQ tested at the same time I was tested for dyslexia (it's 135 apparently)). When the results came back, I was told I was dyslexic.

My English teacher's response to this (which, along with the autism test, probably says a lot about the school) was to tell me to read a lot. He didn't give me any advice about how to deal with the problem it was just "Read, boy, I want to see you with a book in your hand whenever you're not busy." The result was that I've read a book a week, every week pretty much, for a quarter of a century. It wasn't deep and meaningful stuff most of the time (I started with books like Treasure Island, The Lost World and The Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew mysteries (I was gutted to find out later that Franklyn W. Dixon wasn't a real person -even if I should've known that he wasn't thinking about the books)), but reading is reading and to my mind that's the important thing (even if now I'm just a widely read dyslexic).

Given that I've read a lot (and so, presumably, have some breadth to my reading), I think it's a little surprising that I'm confused by the reviews for "The Hotel New Hampshire." In England, you read "My Family and Other Animals" by Gerald Durrell at school when you're 11 or 12ish. It's about a humorously dysfunctional family who decamp to Crete when the father dies. Notionally it's a true story (the family did make the journey), but it's told through the eyes of the 12 year old Durrell and is too funny in places to be really truthful. I'm not sure if the Durrell book is "a good book" (it isn't really) or has made it's way to the US, but it's the sort of "Good British Drama" that will show up on your local NPR station if you ask them nicely or wait long enough.

This book is targeted at a more mature audience, the theme's certainly wouldn't be understood by an 11 or 12 year old I don't think, but as I was reading this book I was regularly reminded of the Durrell book. In this case, a dysfunctional family decamps to hotels they plan to run (called, unsurprisingly, Hotel New Hampshire), and, like the Durrell book, details their escapades, once they arrive. There are more real and depressing elements in this book, but anyone who describes the book as "original" (as some reviewers are supposed to have done) clearly hasn't read the Durrell book, which was published first in the 1960s.

Don't get me wrong, the book was good, but not as original as people suggest it is.
Tags: book, review

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