Book Review: The Frangipani Hotel – Stories by Violet Kupersmith

frangipaniTitle: The Frangipani Hotel: Stories
Author: Violet Kupersmith
Genre: Magical realism, short stories
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher for a tour with TLC Book Tours
Number of pages: 256

Goodreads blurb: Violet wrote these unusually accomplished stories as an undergraduate at Mt. Holyoke College in an attempt to update the traditional Vietnamese ghost stories her grandmother had told her to incorporate the more relevant ghosts of the aftermath of the Vietnam War on a generation of displaced Vietnamese immigrants as well as those who remained in Vietnam. From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sisters sent to Vietnam to visit their elderly grandmother who is not what she appears to be, these stories blend the old world with the new while providing a new angle of insight into the after-effects of the war.

Have you ever been reading a book, and felt like you really should love it, but you just don’t? And you feel like a worse person/reader, because you aren’t “getting” whatever you’re supposed to be getting from the book? Well, The Frangipani Hotel was that kind of read for me. It had all of the elements that I usually like in a book: fantastic writing, an interesting setting, creepy stories, twisty endings. And yet, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I find myself feeling apathetic about it.

I am glad that Ms. Kupersmith has taken Vietnamese folk stories and given them a second life, so to speak. All of the stories are updated to take place after the Vietnam War, and the combination of war-scarred people and creepy-dark folk tales works well. Some of the stories were truly shudder-inspiring. I know that many of you will absolutely love this book, and so I hope that my underwhelmed response won’t keep you from picking it up.

Maybe my reaction stems from the fact that I’m simply not a good audience for short fiction. It is very unusual that I love a book of short stories as much as I love a novel. I want longer, more time with the characters and setting, and have trouble getting drawn into a world when I’m only given a brief snapshot. I will remember that in the future when offered short fiction collections for review.

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15 Responses to Book Review: The Frangipani Hotel – Stories by Violet Kupersmith

  1. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I know exactly what you mean when you describe your feelings for this book. It’s too bad, too, because I had high hopes for it.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – have you already read it? If not, you might like it more than I did.

  2. Kailana says:

    That’s too bad. I really liked this book and I am not much for short story collections.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kelly – I imagine there are a lot of people out there who had the same reaction you did – and I’m glad, because she really does write very well.

  3. Jen K says:

    It sounds fascinating but I totally get what you mean about short fiction. I very rarely read short stories, so I’ve been surprised to realize that in the last month I’ve read an essay collection, and am in the middle of my second book of short stories (none of which I’ve actually gotten around to reviewing because I’m terribly behind).

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Jen – I can relate to being behind! I love essay collections – I guess short pieces of nonfiction work better for me than short pieces of fiction.

  4. I really want to read this collection of short stories. I don’t read short stories often for the reasons you give about not especially enjoying them–I always want more–and they don’t always feel complete. Occasionally though, I am in the mood for them and they hit the spot.

    You aren’t the first person I’ve heard of who has felt she was missing something from reading this book, though.

    Hopefully I will find myself agreeing more with Kelly (Kailana) and really enjoy the book. :-)

  5. Trisha
    Twitter: Trish422
    says:

    I often have the feeling that I should love a book despite the fact I don’t at all. Seriously often. Most of the time this feeling occurs when I’m reading contemporary literary fiction.

  6. Sheila (Book JOurney)
    Twitter: bookjourney
    says:

    I love the synopsis of this one.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sheila – I did, too – that’s what mad me agree to be on the tour.

  7. Darn, I’m sorry you didn’t love this one as much as you wanted to, but thanks for being a part of the tour.

  8. Pingback: Violet Kupersmith, author of The Frangipani Hotel, on tour March/April 2014 | TLC Book Tours

  9. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – April 6, 2014 (plus, wrapping up March’s reading) | BOOKS AND MOVIES