Winner of the Icelandic Literary Prize, Hotel Silence is a delightful and heartwarming new novel from Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, a writer who “upends expectations” (New York Times). Told with grace, insight, and humor, this is the story of one man’s surprising mid-life adventure of self-discovery that leads him to find a new reason for being.
Jónas Ebeneser is a handy DIY kind of man with a compulsion to fix things, but he can’t seem to fix his own life. On the cusp of turning fifty, divorced, adrift, he’s recently discovered he is not the biological father of his daughter, Gudrun Waterlily, and he has sunk into an existential crisis, losing all will to live. As he visits his senile mother in a nursing home, he secretly muses on how, when, and where to put himself out of his misery.
To prevent his only daughter from discovering his body, Jónas decides it’s best to die abroad. Armed with little more than his toolbox and a change of clothes, he flies to an unnamed country where the fumes of war still hover in the air. He books a room at the sparsely occupied Hotel Silence, and there he comes to understands the depths of other people’s scars while beginning to see his wounds in a new light.
A celebration of life’s infinite possibilities, of transformations and second chances, Hotel Silence is a rousing story of a man, a community, and a path toward regeneration from the depths of despair.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir was born in Iceland in 1958, studied art history in Paris and has lectured in the history of art. She has published a poetry collection and several novels, including Butterflies in November, which was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and The Greenhouse, which was translated into twenty-two languages, won the DV Culture Award for Literature, and was a finalist for the Nordic Council Literature Award. She currently lives and works in Reykjavik as the director of the University of Iceland’s Art Museum.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Expected more resolution
Extemely well-written and unpretentious. Would have loved to have had more than 122 pages!
3.5 stars This is very different from my usual reads. It tells the story of Jónas Ebeneser, a 49 yr. old man who has (in his eyes) lost everything. The last straw was learning from his ex-wife that he’s not the father of his adult daughter. Now living in a tiny flat, he calmly decides there is no reason for him to go on living. He’s always been a quiet, insular man. After selling his business, his only job these days is visiting his elderly mother. “I don’t know who I am. I’m nothing & I own nothing”. As Jónas considers his options he concludes it would be better for him to end things in a foreign country. This is the first part of the book & there’s a dreamy, almost surreal feel to it. The prose is poetic & non-linear as Jónas reminisces about his life & the people who have crossed his path. Despite how it may sound, there’s not a drop of self-pity or drama in Jónas’ character. He’s simply reached a point where he has no purpose. The second part of the story moves to a small village in an unnamed country that is slowly rebuilding after a long war. Jónas takes a room at the Hotel Silence which is decidedly worse for wear. It’s run by a young sister & brother who are determined to bring it back to its former glory. After he makes some small repairs to his own room, he becomes the hotel’s resident handyman. Word spreads quickly & it’s not long before other villagers come knocking. This section is much more earthbound. As Jónas strolls the safe areas & meets the people, we see firsthand the physical & emotional tolls of war. A man who lived a comfortable if basic life & wants to die is suddenly surrounded by those who have nothing & fight to live. Their stories are poignant & their courage, humbling. And through no effort of his own he forms relationships. With each job, you get the sense he’s also repairing himself as he begins to feel needed & useful again. This is a book that will appeal to fans of literary fiction, especially if you enjoy that indefinable Scandi vibe. It’s a quiet, introspective read with several running themes. Loss, isolation, self worth, survival, love….all of these are explored through analogy & symbolism. Quotes from well know poets & philosophers take the place of chapter headers. It’s a strange, quirky & ultimately hopeful story about mending what is broken, whether it’s a chair or a human being. I found it an oddly peaceful, almost mesmerizing read. And in a world where people walk around with faces glued to phones & spend more time in the virtual world, its themes are hauntingly relevant.