Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa

Hotel Iris by Yōko Ogawa
Translated by Stephen Snyder
Picador | Paperback, 164 pages
Adult Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I’ve been testing the limits of exactly how far I can get out of my comfort zone when it comes to books. I’ve been picking up more Adult Fiction in an attempt to broaden my horizon. When a family friend recommended this book, I was under the impression that it was going to be Erotica. Though, why she would think I’m interested in Erotica at all escapes me. Hold your smirks, people.

Her exact words were, “Hotel Iris makes Fifty Shades of Grey reads like child’s play”. Who would say no to that? This book is very slight. Written by Japanese author and translated for worldwide release, Hotel Iris is a stunning account of a disturbing sexual (?) relationship between a 17-year-old girl and a 67-year-old man. Mari’s fascination with a man fifty years her senior is transparent throughout the novel. You know she’s drawn to him because she sees her father in him – which makes their BDSM relationship that much harder to stomach.

Quick Story:

Mari has very little childhood to speak of; when her father died from injuries sustained from a brutal beating, she’d learned to accept that her future will revolve around helping her mother with their crumbling hotel business. It’s there that she’ll meet the translator, a sixty-seven-year old man who lived in the island and who has a penchant for hiring prostitutes. From the first time she’d heard of his commanding voice, Mari’s curiosity quickly escalated into obsessive fascination. The fascination then becomes a morbid relationship between a girl and a man old enough to be her grandfather.

My Thoughts:

Violent, disturbing and a harsh portrayal of a BDSM relationship that feature two most unlikely pairing.  Ogawa’s writing is deceptively sparse. However, the impact of her words is very explosive. Fair warning, if you decide to read this book with the expectation that it’s going to be erotic, you will be highly disappointed. There is nothing erotic about a minor being beaten, humiliated, and whipped by a man. Hell, even if the woman is of age, I find this type of relationship unsettling. I could never understand why this is healthy or acceptable.

But hey, I’m not one to tell you not to read a book. Ogawa’s writing and Snyder’s translation makes for a fascinating read that will have you cringing at times. The tandem managed to make this book an “asexual” Erotica. Meaning, there is nothing sexy about it. However, that doesn’t take anything away from how riveting it is.

  • Woah. You really have been reading out of your comfort zone! I don't mind BDSM on occasion though it's been forever since I've read one. Not sure I could do this one but thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • This is a book definitely outside of my comfort zone, I haven´t even read Fifty shades of Gray because I´m not into BDSM.

  • Haha! I sat and thought about how to describe this book and that's the best I could come up with. 🙂 Please feel free.

  • I just read Raw, and it was like that for me. I wasn't sexy, but it was fascinating. Can I use your “asexual erotica” term? I've been trying to think of a way to express that and you just nailed it. I can only stomach one disturbing book like this when they're spread out, but I might give this one a try. Ugh … I have to amp myself up, though.

  • This one sounds intense! Definitely not for me! Sticking to my YA roots but I applaude you for going beyond your horizons!

    Happy Reading!

  • Congrats on broadening your bookish horizon! But this subject is too…out there for me. I don't think I'll touch this book anytime soon. And Fifty Shades was DNF for me. So…

    Anyway, awesome review! 😉

  • I think it's brilliant that you went out of your comfort zone to read this. I don't think I could do it, so I admire you. 🙂

  • Ack. I would never have been able to read this. Too disturbing for me. But I do think you are awesomely brave for reading it 😀 Thank you for sharing your awesome review. <3 Glad you kind of enjoyed this book 🙂

  • I'm not really into Erotica but it seems different. I didn't know this one but it sounds intense and dark and I confess I like to read different things from time to time. And you're right it's a good thing sometimes to try other things!

  • Oh my gosh whilst this book seems highly intriguing I don't think that this book would be for me at all. I do commend the author however for trying something so out there, also go you for definitely stepping out of your comfort zone with this book! Lovely review as always!

  • Gives me chills, your review, J.! Another book I don't think I'll be brave enough to read.:)

  • Hmm, that sounds like I couldn't read it. I was in a bdsm type relationship but I def knew unlike I think a 16 yr old what I was getting into, guy was my age, and we went over boundaries.

  • Oh…..wow. Reminds me of Lolita which I haven't read yet, because I can't touch this subject. It's just all kinds of wrong to me. Good on you for broadening your horizons (and enjoying it!)

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence