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Vienna Primer: Soap Opera a la John Irving

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Staatsoper
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A sibling love affair, a taxidermic incident with the family dog (whose name, of all things, is Sorrow), and a dancing bear. Need we say more? These plot details are just the tip of the iceberg in John Irving’s novel, The Hotel New Hampshire.

The story follows a family from New England as they open their Hotel New Hampshire and endure various travesties. They take the show on the road, moving to Vienna to run a Gasthaus for an old family friend, Freud, a former European refugee who, along with his traveling companion—the dancing bear—originally brought the parents together. Intrigued yet? You haven’t even reached Vienna.

We don’t want to spoil the plot, so we’ll just say that once you arrive in Vienna you can look forward to a hotel floor of prostitutes and a plot by radicals to blow up the Vienna State Opera. It’s a wild ride, and we are willing to bet you won’t want to put it down.

Because Vienna is a fairly placid place, a novel like this one provides an enjoyable and counterintuitive take on the Austrian capital.

About the author

Suzanne Russo

About the author: Suzanne Russo thinks of herself as equal parts California Girl and New Yorker. She moved from San Francisco to New York four years ago to pursue her MA in English, and her obsession with all things New York life and history hasn’t dwindled yet. She is a freelance writer, director of the San Francisco-sponsored, New York literary pub crawl, Lit Crawl, and constant wanderer.

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