Saturday, April 26, 2014
The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH
This is not the case throughout; As alluded to above, all but one or two of the stories in The Frangipani Hotel have explicit supernatural elements. Sometimes they’re subtle, sometimes they carry the story, but they’re always there, and after the first couple stories, I found myself waiting, during the seemingly mundane moments, for the other shoe to drop. There’s the creepiest hitchhiker ever, who lives off the life and memories of others, the girl who visits Vietnam and just might have accidentally eaten her grandmother, the old men who sit in a room every night and wait for a memory from the past to knock on their door, and so it goes. There are two stories with no obviously supernatural elements, but even there, the supernal and the mundane feel as though they are separated by a thread.
I’m not at all familiar with Vietnamese folklore, but most of the stories in the collection feel like updated versions of campfire stories, universal fears made current by transposition into modern times. If the creatures and stories Kupersmith shares aren’t myths, they feel like they are. Aside from the supernatural through-line, there are other common threads pulling the collection together--remembrance of the past, acceptance of mistakes, questions of identity, the Vietnam war, of course--so these stories, in spite of their eldritch trappings, maintain their humanity.
This book was sent to me by TLC book tours, who thought that I might enjoy it. They were right, but I never would have guessed, looking at the cover. It’s a nice image, but the bright pink lettering and fluorescent pink spine seemed to indicate a much different, much more romantic type of book. I can’t help but wonder if a book that is mostly made up of supernaturally-tinged tales building on Vietnamese folklore would have been given the same cover if it were written by a man--but I digress.