Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hotel de Dream by Edmund White

Hotel de Dream is a fictional novel about real life author Stephen Crane. Told during his last days, Crane starts dictating a story he's always wanted to tell: The Painted Boy. Based on an actual painted boy he met a few years earlier, it's the story of a boy and a married man who's obsessed with him.

The story is told from Crane's point-of-view as he lay dying, sometimes reflecting back to the time when he knew the boy; it is also told from the point-of-view of Crane's 'sort of' wife Cora. And then, of course, we get to read the story that Crane dictates to Cora. So, Hotel de Dream is a story within a story, and I loved that.

The ending blew me away. Or, I should say, both endings blew me away. If you know what happened to Crane, then you can probably figure this isn't a happy book. However, it wasn't Crane's death that made it sad, it's what happened after, to his story. I almost felt sick when I read it.

Of course, The Painted Boy was never a real story, but it felt like it was. It was more compelling than the 'real' story.

Hotel de Dream is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I just stumbled across. I never heard of it before, but once I read the synopsis, I knew I absolutely had to read it. It was beautifully written, and while it felt a bit stuffy at some points, I knew it was worth it. And it was.