The story of a man who used to be a writer, but takes a job as a hotel manager when he falls in love with Hawaii. It’s a collection of 80 short stories, with a loose fitting narrative that weaves a few of the elements from one story into the next. Some of the stories are fun, others silly, and several are just tragic. Like any good novel, you wind up becoming attached to these people, even though many of them only have walk on parts of a scene or two, they leave a lasting impression.
There were a number of slightly annoying ticks in Hotel Honolulu. The broken English and outright Pidgin often spoken my any Hawaiian characters makes them sound both stupid and mean spirited. At the same time, our well spoken hero the writer, is often shocked whenever one of them says something intelligent. Everyone is a bit of a sexual deviant, especially the women, most of whom start out life by having sex with an older relative and soon follow up by becoming prostitutes.
Paul Theroux drops himself into this mix as the never named narrator, a writer with a hard to pronounce last name who had one of his books made into a movie and even edited a dictionary once. Oddly, no one in Hawaii is impressed with this, because we are told that no one on the Islands ever reads anything.
The stories span about ten years and tell tales of murder, sexual intrigue, and the many small stories of the hotel regulars. There is a lot of repetition, as if Theroux expected everyone reading the book to set it down for a couple of days after reading each tiny story. Maybe he envisioned it being published in weekly installments like Great Expectations.
The writing is bold and forceful. Theroux does a good job of bringing these odd people and their often odder problems to light. George Guidall did a great job reading the audio book, giving the stories a bit of gusto when needed and speaking in a calm, laid back voice when our narrorator wanted to be philisopical, as he often did.
Hotel Honolulu was a fun book, but ultimately a rather sad one. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.