The Frangipani Hotel, by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel

  • Genre
    • Horror, Suspense, Ghost Stories
  • Plot Summary
    • A collection of ghost stories and monster tales, centered around the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
  • Character Empathy
    • I loved the variety of the viewpoint characters. Some were cynical and detached, some curious and naive, some lonely or depressed, some heartless, some too compassionate for their own good. Depending on whose eyes you are looking for, you might more or less insight into the other characters. However, even with the most jaded and unobservant characters, the author gives you glimpses of the facets they might be missing, all without violating the point of view. It’s fantastic and brilliant. 
  • Tone: What’s it Like to Read This Book?
    • Creepy, but also oddly charming. I’ve always thought that horror is most effective when paired with something loved or lovable; if you don’t love something, how are you going to get attached, and so why should you be afraid? Here, the love most often comes from the sense of place. You can tell that the author loves Vietnam (her mother was a refugee from the war, and Violet Kupersmith later returned to study there). She draws you into even the dingiest alleys and most polluted landscapes, and makes you long to protect it from the monsters that are about to break out onto it.
    • She’s also an absolute master of suspense. She knows that less is sometimes more, and always keeps you guessing about what she’s going to show you, and what she’ll leave to your imagination.
  • Other Shiny Stuff
    • A creepy water woman who could probably eat Odysseus’ sirens for breakfast.
    • The first story is dialog only. I’m kind of a sucker for stories that take those kinds of gimmicks and make them work naturally. She definitely pulled it off.
    • A cranky old truck driver’s story about the time he transported a shark… and it’s not even the main ghost story, just beautifully weird set dressing.
    • A sweet old man who happens to spend part of his life as a giant snake. That’s shiny to me, because I like both sweet old men and cool snakes.
  • Content Warnings
    • Creepy bodies, monsters, a pinch of body horror… the usual fare for this genre.
    • There is one story, Skin and Bones, that might be triggering for people with eating disorders. Still read the book, just skip that one.
  • Quotes
    • “Con, if you were listening you would have learned almost everything you need to know about your history. The first rule of the country we come from is that it always gives you what you ask for, but never exactly what you want.
    • “Thuy didn’t mind that she and her grandmother couldn’t speak to each other. In fact, she rather liked it, and found that their mutual lack of language skills freed them from the banalities of conversation.”
    • “They had discovered that excitement is really just smog and noise and never seeing the stars, and trash piled up in the streets. They would ride with their heads out the window, their faces softening as the city fell away and the world turned flat and emerald-colored again; they were waiting for the moment when we crossed into their province, when they would smack the dashboard and cry out, “Here! Here!”
    • “Sometimes kids will sit on the lower branches and try to fish, but everyone knows that there’s nothing to catch in Hoan Kiem but empty Coca-Cola cans and used heroin needles. Legend says that centuries ago, a giant turtle lived at the bottom of the lake, and it once gave a magic sword to a general to help him defeat the Chinese invaders. I’m supposed to tell the story to all the tourists who stay at the Frangi.”
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