Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

Completed: March 10, 2014
Length: 256 Pages

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Based on traditional Vietnamese ghost stories told to the author by her Vietnamese grandmother but updated to reflect the contemporary ghost of the Vietnam War, here is a mesmerizing collection of thematically linked stories, united by the first and last story of the collection.
Violet wrote these unusually accomplished stories as an undergraduate at Mt. Holyoke College in an attempt to update the traditional Vietnamese ghost stories her grandmother had told her to incorporate the more relevant ghosts of the aftermath of the Vietnam War on a generation of displaced Vietnamese immigrants as well as those who remained in Vietnam. From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sisters sent to Vietnam to visit their elderly grandmother who is not what she appears to be, these stories blend the old world with the new while providing a new angle of insight into the after-effects of the war.
Fiction or Non-Fiction? Genre?: Fiction. Vietnamese Ghost Stories.

What Lead You To Pick Up This Book?: A combination of a book for a TLC Book Tour and the fact that it is ghost stories and folk tales from Vietnam.

Summarize the Plot: A collection of Vietnamese ghost stories updated from old traditional stories to have the Vietnam War as a background. The stories all seem traditional in general, but there are strange, supernatural elements to each one. Sometimes it would be a while before you found out what they were. Then there were others that you found out about right away. There is enough connection between each story to flow together. And, the first and last story are connected eve more directly than that.

A bit about the stories:

'Boat Story' - A grand-daughter is asking her grandmother about her escape from Vietnam and gets an entirely different story than she is expecting. This story sets the scene for the unusual that was set to come. It ends with the sentence 'Did we ever really escape'. That could be a theme to the collection in many ways. A strange story that cemented my decision that I was going to like this collection.

'Reception' - This is the story that actually takes place at The Frangipani Hotel. (A word that I keep worrying I am going to spell wrong on a side note.) There were scenes in this story that had me laughing. But, like the rest of the collection, there are strange, dark elements. In this story they take the shape of a woman who the receptionist, the main character, finds after she almost floods the bathroom. That's just the beginning of the strangeness. I really liked this story! Even if it had those dark elements, it was actually one of the lighter stories in the collection.

'Skin and Bones' - Two daughters are sent from America to stay with their grandmother in Vietnam over the holidays. It all starts because the younger daughter eats too much and her mother thinks Vietnam food will help. Nothing is as it seems in this story. This was one of my favourites in the collection. It was kind of a Wait... What??? story.

'Little Brother' - In this story a truck driver tells stories from his time on the road. There is one about a shark which is very strange. The other one, though, was almost expected but not at the same time. At this point in the collection you definitely expect weird things to happen, but still... It was kind of another 'what is going on' story. I liked it, but it kind of creeped me out.

'The Red Veil' - I think this story was probably the creepiest one in this collection. It's the story of two sisters whose mother dies and their father remarries. It was the one story in the collection that I really, really wanted to know what happened in more detail. I think it would make a good novel. It really drew me in but I wasn't entirely sure about everything that happened. It is still running around in my head.

'Guests' - This is the story of Mia who had decided to work for the American consulate in Vietnam. Her father doesn't understand why because he has escaped from there and she wants to go back. Her job is to deal with the woman who have been impregnated and then abandoned by American men. In her personal life she has a live-in boyfriend also from America, but things are not going as well as she expects. This launches a counter story that winds up with an ending that I didn't really like all that much. It worked for the story, but, yeah, wish it had ended differently.

'Turning Back' - uh, yeah... This story was weird right from the very beginning! Another story that would make an interesting novel. It was a very intriguing retelling of a story that exists in many forms across many cultures. Definitely a page-turner!

'One-Finger' - A Calligrapher, a Poet, and a Guitarist sit around the Calligrapher's living room. They have been friends for 40 years after serving together in the Vietnam War. Their friendship is about to take a very different turn, though. The Calligrapher's past is about to catch up with him and he has a story to tell his friends. A good story!

'Descending Dragon' - A story that links from the beginning of the collection. It takes place in a Seniors Home. Ms. Nguyen is a very entertaining character! The Vietnam War is coming to visit her in a very real way. It is a great way to end the collection!

I don't read very many short story collections. I am so happy this one worked for me. I really really liked it! If not for the tour, positive reviews would have likely made me add it to my wish list, but I am not sure how likely my reading of it was. It is nice to have an enjoyable experience with something essentially outside of your comfort zone.

Strongly Recommended!


  1. This one didn't initially catch my eye when I first heard of it, but now I really wish I had of accepted it when it was offered!

  2. I only skimmed your review, because I just started my copy today!

  3. Humm. I too don't read a lot of short stories but this collection looks good.

  4. I avoid short story collections because they all tend to run together for me. However, you are definitely making me reconsider this blanket policy. Your comments on strange and supernatural has me very intrigued!

  5. Wow this sound seriously creepy! I will have to look for this collection. I don't think I've read anything like this.

  6. I'm not a big fan of short stories, but this collection sounds so intriguing!

  7. Book Review Request

    “What a delightful book. I will almost certainly revisit this endearing book, and I suspect I shall also remember it well in years to some.”
    ~Lynette Sofras, Smashwords

    Not a good idea to read this in bed when people are sleeping. It is so funny that I was choking down my giggles. It did not take me long to finish this wonderful book. There were no spy stories, magic dragons, werewolves or vampires. There is just Willie growing up during World War 2 with his family.
    I loved this book due to the fact that I could relate to it. As Willie grows up, his viewpoint changes and life changes. The book relates many good stories with moral and family values everyone will appreciate.
    I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange was funny yet touching. I would recommend it to anyone.
    ~ Ailyn Koay bgtell.blogspot.com.au

    I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange Anymore
    Hank Kellner

    Growing up in the fictional town of Meadowview, young Willie Watson objects to being required to play the part of an orange in the school play when he is nine and in the fourth grade. But that's just the beginning of his problems. As he continues through elementary school and into junior high school, Willie has to deal with the town bully; Christmas with his relatives; the death of a schoolmate; the loss of his girlfriend; the theft of a fountain pen, and his broken eyeglasses.
    But that’s not all. Willie doesn’t want to eat his peas; take the garbage out; deal with his troublesome kid sister; try to climb the ropes in gym class while his gym teacher harasses him, or have to stay after school until he’s “…old enough to grow a beard.”
    Readers will discover how Willy becomes a member of Brucie’s gang; what happens in the old movie house on Main Street; how feisty old Grandma inspires Willie, and much, much more.
    Included in this book are such chapters as "There Is No Santa Claus," "Oh Captain, My Captain," "The Dog in the Rhinestone Collar," "A Bird's Just a Bird," and "Hey Brucie, Your Sister Wears Long Underwear."
    I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange Anymore contains a wealth of humorous and often touching descriptions of a young boy's fantasies and life experiences as he grows up in a small town many years ago. This coming of age book is suitable not only for young adults, but also for older readers.
    An eBook published at Amazon and Smashwords


    About the Author

    Hank Kellner is a veteran of the Korean War and a retired associate professor of English. He is the author of 125 Photos for English Composition Classes (J. Weston Walch, 1978), How to Be a Better Photographer (J. Weston Walch, 1980), Write What You See (Prufrock Press, 2010), and, with Elizabeth Guy Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing Prufrock Press, 2013). His other writings and photographs have appeared in hundreds of publications and journals nationwide
    Kellner’s most recent writings include twelve E-books. Included in this collection are: Terror at Mirror Lake, a psychological thriller; I Don’t Wanna Be an Orange Anymore, a coming of age novel; The Lucky Star House of Celestial Pleasures, a satire in the style of Voltaire; The Pokerbury Tales, a satire in the style of Chaucer; several works of illustrated poetry; two cookbooks, and two other works of non fiction. To discover more about these works, please visit https://www.smashwords.com.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Hank Kellner

  8. You got me at "vietnamese ghost stories".. I am a total sucker for grandma stories from around the wrold.. and this book looks great! I'd love to read this book:)

  9. These look great! Premise alone is intriguing but add in that they are especially well-done, I'm hooked.

  10. There are so many books that I add to my TBR list after reading great reviews so I know what you mean. I'm glad you had a chance to read and enjoy this collection!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  11. This sounds like a great collection. I'd love to read The Red Veil. I love weird stories.

  12. Excellent review! I just posted my TLC review, and am now taking a look at what others thought.


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