Book: Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices
Authors: Kathleen Alcalá, Matthew Amster-Burton, Kit Bakke, Erica Bauermeister, Sean Beaudoin, Dave Boling, Deb Caletti, Carol Cassella, Maria Dahvana Headley, William Dietrich, Robert Dugoni, Kevin Emerson, Karen Finneyfrock, Jamie Ford, Clyde W. Ford, Elizabeth George, Mary Guterson, Teri Hein, Stephanie Kallos, Erik Larson, Stacey Levine, Frances McCue, Jarret Middleton, Peter Mountford, Kevin O’Brien, Julia Quinn, Nancy Rawles, Suzanne Selfors, Jennie Shortridge, Ed Skoog, Garth Stein, Greg Stump and David Laskey, Indu Sundaresan, Craig Welch, Susan Wiggs
Publisher: Open Road Media; May 3, 2011
Format: e-Galley via NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5
Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices is unique in that it is one complete novel written by 36 distinct authors. Each chapter represents the work of one author. The novel was originally written in front of a live audience during an event was called The Novel: Live!. You can read more about the original concept here. Given the parameters of the original event, the outcome is pretty incredible.
Knowing the number of authors involved had me asking all kinds of questions while reading. In the introduction, Garth Stein explains that a committee convened and outlined a plot before the writing ever began. During the six-day writing marathon, each author was provided with the text created prior to their chapter, and an editor suggested which direction the writer should take to follow the plot. My questions included: Was there a definite shell of a story – beginning, middle, end? Did the concept/plot ever change due to a writer’s contribution? I think it is more fun not knowing how much was decided in advance. That makes the novel as a whole seem more magical.
Hotel Angeline centers around fourteen-year-old Alexis Austin, who lives in a former mortuary turned hotel. The basement is filled with coffins leftover from the mortuary business. The hotel houses several long-term residents, including a pirate with a peg leg and a bonsai gardener. Alexis’ mother, also the hotel manager, is sick and no one has seen her for a while. In her absence, Alexis takes over and tries to run the hotel, dealing with everything from repairing the plumbing to serving afternoon tea. Alexis soon finds herself overburdened with grown-up responsibilities. What’s a girl to do? Go on a wild adventure and try to save the hotel from creditors! The long-term residents are like family to Alexis and she cannot bear to see them (or herself) lose their home.
Even though the novel is written by 36 different authors, the change in writing is mostly unnoticeable. There were only a handful of chapters where the writing style seemed noticeably different to me. In the foreword, librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl recommends that you read the novel once without noticing the author and a second time paying attention. I was not familiar with many of the authors so I did not have a need to pay close attention to which chapter went with which author on my first reading. I plan to go back through and take note of who wrote the chapters that I enjoyed the most.
Hotel Angeline is out next week, May 3rd, so have a read and find out what an event like The Novel: Live! has the ability to produce.