Note: I got this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
My list of to-read books is a mile long, mostly because I like to take a break between two books. Sort of like cleansing the palate for the next experience. There is no method to madness for me when it comes to choosing the next book I want to read. It was the cover of Hotel Silence that captivated me first. I absolutely adore the illustration on the cover, and wouldn’t mind having that hung on my wall.
Expected to be released in Januray 2018, Hotel Silence is a story of Jonas. Jonas Ebeneser, is a divorced 50 year old man who is a father to a young daughter Gudrun Waterlily and son to an ageing mother, Gudrun Stella Jónasdóttis Snæland. Jonas discovers that he is not the biological father of his daughter and that his now ex-wife had lied to him from the very beginning of their relationship. The reality and the truth plummet Jonas into an existential crisis and he is toying with the idea of suicide to put himself out of misery.
The fear of his daughter discovering his dead-body propels him to look for alternatives. He decides, the best idea would be to die abroad. He sells off his company, donates all his clothes and packs himself a compact travel bag. Armed with nothing but a few clothes and a hand drill, he makes his way to an unnamed country to finally be able to kill himself in peace.
He arrives at his destination to a city covered in grey blanket of fumes and remains of a war. Hotel Silence too is rickety from the bombings and lack of care. Being a kind and gentle soul, he is unable to refuse the requests to help restore the hotel by the siblings running the hotel. One thing leads to another and he finds himself being the handy-man to quite a few people in the town, each with equally heart-breaking story. Each with an equally strong spirit to live and conquer the demons of the past. Going through the motions of fixing shower heads and plumbing and other bits and bobs, Jonas begins to see his pain dwarf down in comparison to the suffering and pain carried by the others around him.
TL;DR – Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize, Hotel Silence is a thoroughly delightful, quirky yet strange (in a good way) novel.
I find it very strange to call this a “novel”. This could very well be the story of your next door, slightly introverted, yet eager to help, middle-aged neighbor because that is exactly how Jonas comes across. The character development for not only the protagonist but for all the characters is flawless. Every character has his or her baggage that they are carrying and it does not come across as though it is forced. The progression of Jonas’s story from contemplation of suicide to arrival in the foreign country to his days spent helping the siblings at Hotel Silence unfolds at a steady pace. The character of Jonas’s mother and daughter make frequent appearances, at appropriate intervals and timings making it a job well-done by the author in terms of giving due weightage to the characters and adding dimensions to the story.
At no point did I found the story lagging or struggling to be carried forward on the shoulders of lengthy descriptions of surroundings or moods. That is not to say that the story is fast-paced. But it moves along steadily, like a well-oiled machine. The narration is in first person without losing the perspective and perceptions of the narrator. Reading of diary entries from the past by Jonas is definitely a clever idea to add more dimension not only to the story but to Jonas himself.
Ms. Auour Ava Olafsdottir has brought forth a subject that we are all aware of in our sub-conscience but easily overlook. To this effect, the author writes in the book:
“Wounds heal at different speeds and the scars that are formed can lie at varying depths, some are deeper than others. “
There are many literary gems in the books. For example:
“It takes only one sentence to blow up a village. Two sentences to destroy the world.”
This book is a story of upliftment and regeneration, of hope and resilience that propel us out of the depths of despair. It is not enough to say that this book a great read. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Auour bags a few more awards for this one.
This will be the fourth novel by Ms Auour Ava Olafsdottir, who is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Iceland. Born in 1958 in Reykjavík, Ms. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir studied the history of art at Sorbonne, Paris. Her debut novel “Raised Earth” was published in 1998. She was awarded City of Reykjavik Literary Award for her second novel “Rain in November” that was published in 2004. Ms. Olafsdottir was awarded the DV Culture Award for literature and a women’s literary prize in Iceland for her third novel “The Greenhouse” that was published in France in 2010. The book attracted a great deal of coverage in the French media and went on to receive Prix de Page literary award as the best European novel of 2010.
What did you think of Hotel Silence? Have you read it yet or are planning to? Let me know.
Note: All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.