The Hotel New Hampshire
|Cover artist||Terry Fehr|
|Publisher||E. P. Dutton|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||401 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-525-12800-X (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3559.R8 H6 1981|
This novel is the story of the Berrys, a quirky New Hampshire family composed of a married couple, Win and Mary, and their five children. The parents, both from the small town of Dairy, New Hampshire, fall in love while working at a summer resort hotel in Maine as teenagers. There they meet a Viennese Jew named Freud who works at the resort as a handyman and entertainer, performing with his pet bear, State o' Maine; Freud comes to symbolize the magic of that summer for them. By summer's end the teens are engaged, and Win buys Freud's bear and motorcycle and travels the country performing to raise money to go to Harvard, which he subsequently attends while Mary starts their family. He then returns to Dairy and teaches at the local second-rate boys' prep school he attended, the Dairy School. But he is unsatisfied and dreaming of something better.
The children are: Franny, self-confident and brash; John, the narrator, sweet, if naive, and enamored of Franny; Frank, physically awkward, reserved, and homosexual; Lilly, a small romantic girl who has "stopped growing"; and Egg, an immature little boy with a penchant for dressing up in costumes. John and Franny are companions, seeing themselves as the most normal of the children, aware that their family is rather strange. But, as John remarks, to themselves the family's oddness seems "right as rain."
Win conceives the idea of turning an abandoned girls' school into a hotel. He names it the Hotel New Hampshire and the family moves in. This becomes the first part of Irving's Dickensian-style tale. Its chief plot elements are: Franny's rape at the hands of several members of the school football team, including the quarterback, a boy named Chipper Dove with whom she is in love, and her rescue, though somewhat late, by Junior Jones, a black member of the team; the death of the family dog, Sorrow, and its repeated resurrection via taxidermy, the first instance of which scares the grandfather literally to death; John's sexual initiation with the hotel housekeeper Ronda Ray; and a letter from Freud inviting the family to move to Vienna to help him (and his new "smart" bear) run his hotel there.
Traveling separately from the rest of the family, the mother and Egg are killed in an airplane crash. The others take up life in Vienna at what is renamed the (second) Hotel New Hampshire, one floor of which is occupied by prostitutes and another floor by a group of radical communists. The family discover that Freud is now blind and the "smart bear" is actually a girl named Susie in a bear suit. Plot developments in this segment are: the father's decline following the death of his wife; the family's relationships with the prostitutes and the radicals; John and Franny falling in love with each other; John's relationship with a communist who commits suicide; Franny's sexual relationships with Susie and with the "quarterback" of the radicals, Ernst; Lilly developing as a writer and penning the story of the family; and the radicals' plot to blow up the opera house, using Freud and the family as hostages, which Freud and Win foil. The family becomes famous and, with Frank as Lilly's agent, her book is published for a large amount of money. The family (with Susie the bear) returns to the States, taking up residence in The Stanhope hotel in New York.
The chief elements of the final part of the novel are: Franny and John's resolution of their love; Franny's revenge on her rapist; Franny's success as a movie actress and her marriage to Junior Jones; Lilly's suicide from her despair as a writer; John and Frank's purchase of the shut-down resort in Maine where their parents met; its function as a rape crisis center run by Susie; Susie and John finding happiness with each other; and a pregnant Franny asking them to raise her and Junior's impending baby.
The novel is evocative of the New Hampshire of Irving's childhood.
John Berry: John Berry is the second son of Win and Mary Berry. He was born in New England and resides there for most of his childhood. He has several siblings: Frank, Franny, Lilly, and Egg. The story is told from a first person point of view, John being the narrator. John is particularly close to his sister, Franny, more so than any of his other siblings. John took a particular interest in getting in shape after Franny was raped. With help from his grandfather, Iowa Bob (or Coach Bob), he began working out. John describes himself during his early teens saying, "I weighed 170, but I was still only five feet six inches tall." (111). He goes on further stating "That’s me: five feet eight inches tall, and 150 pounds. And hard all over." (111). Although John has a few short sexual endeavors with various females, he holds a special place in his heart for his sister, Franny. Eventually the two succumb to their desires and make love. After this, they remain close, but only as brother and sister. John helps start a Rape Clinic at the old Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea. John marries Susie the bear in the end, and the couple adopt Franny’s child.
Franny Berry: Second oldest child of the Berry family, she is incredibly good-looking, according to those around her, and even her siblings. She has a tendency to take charge of the family, particularly after her mother dies. She essentially takes the role of her mother. She is the victim of a rape, and it remains with her, though she does not admit it, until her mid-20s. She becomes an actress and stars in a movie about her own family. She eventually marries one of the classmates who rescued her from the rape, Junior Jones. Much later the two have a child, which they give to John and Susie.
Frank Berry: Oldest of the Berry children, he is often at odds with John and Franny. Around the age of 16 he came out as homosexual, which resulted in a fair amount of abuse from his schoolmates, especially football players. This culminated when he was hazed by the football players and rescued by John and Franny. His association with his siblings improved after that. The most serious of all his siblings, Frank goes on to major in economics, and eventually becomes Lilly’s agent. Later he also becomes Franny's agent and John's agent. He had taken a special interest in taxidermy, but gave it up after the deaths of his mother and Egg.
Lilly Berry: Second youngest Berry child. She is small in size, probably because she is a dwarf. She is quiet and likable. She becomes a literary figure after her first book, essentially an autobiography of her family, is released. She continues to write, with her brother Frank acting as her agent. Eventually, she succumbs to writers block and commits suicide. She leaves a note which reads: "Sorry, just not big enough."
Egg Berry: Youngest of the Berry children. He is also the most comical of them all, though it is unintentional. An ear infection left him somewhat deaf, and his comical response to most statements/questions directed towards him was "What?".
Win Berry: Father of the Berry children and husband of Mary Berry. He is a graduate of Harvard, but rarely applies such skills. He is more or less an entrepreneur in the field of lodging. He becomes depressed when his wife, Mary, along with his youngest son, Egg, are killed in a plane crash. This state of depression slowly spirals downward, reaching a low point when he is blinded by an explosion, during the foiling of the terrorist plot. He eventually takes up a similar demure as Freud, his old friend, and begins to gain confidence again when they move back to the States. He eventually becomes an unknowing counselor at the rape counsel center.
Mary Berry: Mother of the Berry children and wife of Win Berry. She is originally from New Hampshire, from a very scholarly family. She was a subtle and gentle mother, and remained devoted to her husband. Unfortunately, en route to Vienna, the plane crashed, killing both Mary and her youngest child, Egg. The Berry family decided that Mary would have liked Vienna.
Freud: An old Austrian Jew, he initially trained a bear, State o' Maine, and performed at the Arbuthnot-by-the-Sea. He returned to Europe in 1939 and was imprisoned by the Nazis. He was blinded in an experiment in the concentration camps. He survived, and afterwords started a hotel in Vienna. He invited Win Berry to come be his partner, which Win accepts. Their business is not entirely successful, but Freud dies a hero when he stops a terrorist plot by sacrificing his life. Win Berry was very fond of him, and seems to be a protégé of Freud.
Iowa Bob: Grandfather of the Berry children and father to Win Berry. He earned a reputation as a stalwart supporter of physical activity, and eventually accepted a position as head of the PE division at a private school in Dairy, NH, so long as his son, Win Berry, was allowed to attend the school for free. Iowa Bob later supports John when he decides to begin physical training. Iowa Bob died from fright when he discovered the taxidermy version of Sorrow, the family dog, in his closet. He is best remembered by his quotes "We’re screwed down for life" (page 117) and "You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed." (page 111). These quotes are often referenced to the living style of the Berry family.
Ronda Ray: More or less a housekeeper at the first Hotel New Hampshire. She has a "dayroom" at the hotel, and introduces John to the sexual world, though it is not a relation of attraction.
Junior Jones: African American football player at the private school in Dairy, NH. He is quiet, and unlike most of his fellow players. He helps rescue Franny from being raped, and is a source of comfort for Franny afterward. After many years, the two finally marry and give their child to John and Susie.
Chipper Dove: Football player who raped Franny. For some reason, Franny remained in contact with him, even after the rape. After the family moved back to the States, they encountered Chipper again, but they staged an elaborate hoax, which resulted in Chipper disappearing from their lives.
Ernst: German radical at the second Hotel New Hampshire. He is involved in a terror plot, but is killed by Win before it can be carried out. He resembles Chipper Dove in appearance.
Bitty Tuck: Rich, classy girl whom John was involved with during the New Year's party. Their fun is cut short when Bitty, while putting on a diaphragm in the bathroom, sees the taxidermy version of Sorrow and faints. Her nickname, "Titsie," refers to her large breasts.
Lenny Metz and Chester Pulaski: Football players who also raped Franny. They were "taken care of" by the "Black Arm of the Llaw."
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