The Paragon Hotel

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

I really wanted to enjoy this one but overall found it incredibly tedious to read. The writing felt heavy-handed, as if someone tried too hard or edited it to death. I tried and failed to have interest in the MC and ultimately found myself loathing to pick the book up.
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This is one I DNFed but I definitely plan to get another shot. It starts out very slow which at the time to starting this I need something fast paced. But i heard that when this gets going its good. So i will be back to up date my thoughts at a later time.
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I generally love Lindsay Faye books, but there was too much violence toward animals in the opening few chapters, and I just couldn't keep reading. This is my pecadillo, and I imagine many other readers will find the book quite engaging.
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Wow did Lyndsay Faye blow me out of the water with this one. 

I decided to pick it up after seeing it everywhere thanks to Bookpage at work and the descriptions of 1920's Harlem and Portland mixed with the Mafia and the Klu Klux Klan really made me want to read it. 

Faye is able to build a believable world with characters that are extremely three dimensional I felt like I was leaving behind old friends when I finished. 

Nobody, aka Alice, grows up in the Italian heavy streets of Harlem where the mob runs everything. Her mother is a prostitute and her pimp is looking to pimp out Nobody as well. Instead, Nobody takes a deal with the Spider who is looking to take down the Mafia's most powerful family. Fast forward a few months and Nobody finds herself on a train to Portland, trying to hide her bullet wound when she meets Max. Max soon sweeps her off to the Paragon Hotel so she can receive medical treatment. The problem? Nobody is white, Max is black and the Paragon Hotel is for blacks only. 

Faye intertwines the story of Nobody's two worlds in this highly addicting novel. Nobody gets to know the characters of the Paragon, especially after little Davy goes missing. The Klan doesn't scare her, not after dealing with the streets of New York, but what really happened to make her leave in a hurry and what actually happened to Davy? 

If you love historical fiction, you will highly enjoy this story You can tell that Faye did a lot of research and that this book was written with a lot of love. 

I really enjoyed the relationship between Nobody and Blossom Fountain. When each lead brings Nobody to new clues, it's not hard to see why she was so vital to the Spider.
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This is my first read by this author and she creates a fascinating and often gripping tale of Harlem and Portland back in the early 1920s with great characters and a plot that twists and turns magically. The main character, Alice James, a white mob girl, fleeing a serious dust-up in Harlem, finds herself recuperating from wounds in an all black hotel on the other side of the country — the Paragon in the title — and before long she is swept up in a series of events that pit her and her new friends against the KKK which is emerging in Portland and Oregon with terrifying force. I was struck by the careful research provided at the beginning of each chapter in snippets from actual documents from those times showing how deeply racism had been institutionalized in Oregon. The author is great at characterization and skilled at creating vivid scenes. There are some surprises as the story comes to its end which are moving and quite stunning. I will now want to read her other novels.
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Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to read this book!  I appreciate the kindness. 
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In The Paragon Hotel, Lyndsay Faye brings us a character nicknamed Nobody. She’s actually Alice James, but is skilled at disappearing into the corner of a room or a street. She uses some disguise, but mostly changes voices and attitudes to blend in. It’s a skill she learned growing up in an early 1900s whorehouse.

Faye flips the chapters back and forth between Then and Now. Now is 1920s Portland, Oregon. Then was early teens New York City and boroughs. In both cases Alice / Nobody barely manages to keep out of the fire. In fact, the entire reason she’s in Portland is because the flames got too high and hot in NYC.

Nobody is a plucky young woman, born into adversity and managing to survive by the skin of her teeth. But I also must say, Nobody is little bit boring. I struggled with this book, until *wham-bam* Faye hit me with three big plot twists in three chapters. Then all of a sudden the freight train started to fly downhill and threaten to hop off the tracks. However, I could have used about 50 pages less exposition to those twists.

My conclusions
Faye is an ambitious writer. And in The Paragon Hotel she takes on a wide variety of topics that are as timely today as they were in Nobody’s day.

In the Oregon story, Nobody, who is white, lives in a hotel for black people. Considering it was illegal to be black and living in Oregon at the time, Faye hits both race relations and racism smack on their white hooded heads. Yes, there’s KKK in the story. And some white savior complex …

In the New York story, Nobody is a player (or maybe a pawn) in one man’s long game against the Mafia. Her lifelong friend Nicolo is involved as well, but his part is unclear until Faye pulls back the veil. It’s a risky game for everyone involved.

In both stories, Faye also takes on some aspects of women’s rights and the question of sexuality. Plenty of women in the story struggle with whether they have a right to agency, from Nobody’s mother to various characters in Portland. While this isn’t the center of the story, it’s easy to see how important the topic is to the author.

As I mentioned, The Paragon Hotel didn’t move quickly enough for me. I recall feeling the same way with her book Dust and Shadow, although I liked that book more overall. It’s not especially long, but took me much longer than normal to finish. I just kept picking other books up instead. And yet, those twists at the end were its savior. Without them, I would be panning the book. With them, I’m recommending it with an eye to patience.

Acknowledgements
I received a digital ARC from NetGalley and publisher Penguin Group / Putnam / G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for this honest review. Many thanks to them as well as the author.
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NetGalley Review

It took me a long time to get into this book. It took me even longer to realize that maybe I’m just not meant to love this book either. This is by no means a reflection of the author’s writing or storytelling. I absolutely loved Faye’s writing. Although I wasn’t alive in the 1920s, I did feel as if I was transported there. The blunt but genuine descriptions further aided to Faye’s world building and overall plot. There wasn’t a moment when I was taken out of the story. 

As for the characters, I tried my best to follow and feel for them. But something was lacking. Maybe it was the dialogue or Alice’s actions, either way, I was left a little disappointed. I was more so interested in the world around them rather than themselves. This might’ve been my mistake when I first saw this book. It didn't want I was expecting but in a good way. Though there were some scenes I thought we could’ve gone without, I still enjoyed reading The Paragon Hotel.
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This is an excellent historical novel told in two timeframes with chapters titled Now and Then; "Now" being Portland, Oregon and "Then" being Little Italy in NYC’s Harlem. The entire novel takes place circa 1920.

Alice “Nobody” James, daughter of a whore and by all fates destined to become one, is offered an interesting proposition. In exchange for an education of sorts, room and board, and access to Mafioso big boss, Mr. Salvatici, she will become his eyes and ears, a protégé of sorts. Because Alice is not noticeable—hence her moniker, Nobody—she floats unnoticed through the neighborhood and reports back to Salvatici. Until one day she becomes visible, dangerously visible, and ends up running for her life, which we know from the opening scenes of the book. She flees her Harlem neighborhood with it all prejudices and crime for a place farthest away she can think of: Portland, Oregon. 

She lands in a hotel for “Negros only.” Faye base her fictional Paragon Hotel on an actual hotel in Portland called The Golden West. Founded in the early 1900s, it served black railroad workers, like the handsome Pullman Alice meets on the train headed west, Max.  Alice finds she has fled one form of violence and discrimination to another much more virulent kind- the Klan. 

Few hipsters who have moved to Portland for its liberal politics know about Oregon’s brutal and discriminatory past. Known as “the whitest city in America,” Portland and the state itself were founded on a white nationalist ideal. 
Faye is a wonderful writer. I particularly enjoyed the small jokes and insinuations she makes as she is telling the story, as though she were having fun at her keyboard. She has certainly done her homework recreating the 1920 and 30s in both Portland and New York. 

It’s an informative book and worth reading if for no other reason that the damning epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter. These Faye ripped right out of Oregon books, journals, and newspapers and shows the level of racism and discrimination blacks suffered during that period of its history.
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Don't miss this book.  Lyndsay Faye writes incredibly life-like and complex characters,  Their motives are never just what's on the surface, and they are always very human - never just black and white.  
I loved this book particularly because of the dual story line.  As the book progresses we get the flashbacks of how "Nobody" Alice James came to be at the Paragon Hotel, alongside the ongoing story of the Paragon's inhabitants.  The historical setting of this book is rich and immersive, and the race issues of the time period fully incorporated.  
Nobody Alice has spent her life learning to be whatever Nobody the situation demands.  Most of that education falling under service to one of the most notorious mafia bosses in Harlem.  Bleeding and delirious, Alice finds herself on an impromptu flight from "la malavita" in Harlem, and from those sure to pursue her if they find out she's alive.  She finds herself racing cross-country in a Pullman Car juggling Nobodies between the demure and conservative Alice she portrays to her bunkmate, and the slightly more "flapper-esque" Nobody she reveals to the Porter, who can't bear to leave her stranded at the journey's end.  Thus Alice comes to be the latest (and only white) resident of the Paragon Hotel.  
Not for the first time, Alice sees life from the side of those facing persecution for their color and culture, but finds herself uniquely in a position to help when the Paragon's youngest resident and communal charge, Davie, goes missing.  
Up against the Ku Klux Klan, the police (both good and bad), and the tight-lipped and motley residents of the Paragon, Alice has to juggle enough Nobodies to get to the bottom of Davie's disappearance.  Along the way, she'll uncover more secrets than she wanted to know, and discover more about the real Alice James than she thought possible.  
With characters ranging from a nightclub singer and an aspiring writer, to a war vet and a society matron, every reader will identify with Faye's cast.  I recommend this story to any readers of historical fiction, and Faye's writing to anyone who needs a book that goes a little deeper, a little beyond the ordinary expectations.  There are some sensitive topics in the book, but no illicit descriptions.
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This book was so much more than a mystery. It was an intricate portrayal of a history that should be talked about with a fictionalized plot that hooked the reader. I loved it and the characters so much.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for a honest review.

The Paragon Hotel tells the tale of Alice "Nobody" James, a 1920s moll escaping across the US after a fatal gunshot during a mob showdown. She befriends a black porter named Max and finds herself at the titular hotel in Portland, Oregon (the only hotel establishment for colored people). During her stay she gets to know some of its residents, and endures the racial tensions from being the only white woman in residence. The disappearance of one of the orphan children leads to investigate the many secrets held at the hotel. 

The narrative oscillates from the present day events in Portland to Alice's upbringing in Harlem (the narrative tense also switching from present to past); while the backstory of her life in New York and how she ended up shot and travelling cross country was an interesting read, it wasn't really necessary, as the events in the past had little to do with the events in the present. It took a while to get into the language of the era, and much of it sounded like lines recited from a script. 

The historical aspect of the story was fascinating, and added to the overall narrative structure. The plot twist at the end was surprising and unexpected (though I'm not quite sure if it would have actually happened at the time.)

Overall, the book was all right - it could have been two separate stories instead of one.
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Lyndsay Faye is such a good writer, it is just insane. Unfortunately, as good of a writer she is, I'm probably an equally terrible reviewer so it has been too long since I've read the book, so the wonderful turns of phrase that I marked for examples are long gone on my since-expired galley copy! Oh wait, I happened to take a picture of one: "Everyone I love is lost to me. I haven't a clue whether half of them are dead or alive and it's maddening, not knowing if their names are being called from across a crowded nightclub or etched in unrelenting stone." Sorry it had to be such a depressing one, but it's better than nothing.

So this book has EVERYTHING. Great plot, great characters, great writing and dialogue, great themes, great setting, great historical research. Somehow Faye discusses prejudice (race, ethnicity, and sexual identity), teaches some little-known history (on both the east and west coasts), and has me turning pages like crazy dying to know what will happen to the fast-talking, whip-smart Nobody and her newfound friends.

Unlike Jane Steele, I didn't feel like more content was required - I felt like it was just enough. Only 4 stars because (I think, it's been 7 weeks!) that something about the mafia aspect just turned me off a bit. Personal preference, not really a commentary on Faye's obvious skill. More standalone historical fiction, please, you genius lady, you!
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This is the third book I’ve read by this author and I have to conclude that she is not for me. I didn’t like the writing style, the dialogue felt unnatural. I gave up and I doubt that I will try the author again. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Sigh. This book. There was so much about this book that made me want to like it. Set during prohibition with monsters and flappers and the KKK. A central mystery about a missing boy. A fale protagonist that starts the book nursing a gunshot to the abdomen. 

But I didn’t like this book. It took me nearly four months to finish it. The writing was oh so verbose and really hard to follow. The plot dragged on and and, only really picking up on the last three chapters. And it was WAY too long. 

Two stars for a few plot twists that I really didn’t see coming. Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved some of the hard driving topics that this book discussed. It was almost a 4/5 for me but I’m not sold on the dual timeline structure here. The timelines were so close together that they were difficult to follow at times. So, in theory this book could have been much better for my taste (I love historical fiction) than it was in the end. 

#TheParagonHotel #NetGalley
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The cover of The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye caught my eye and the story was just as catching.

The book begins with Alice, nicknamed Nobody, on a train to Portland with a gunshot wound. Max, a porter helps Alice and when they arrive in Portland takes her to the Paragon Hotel, the only all-black hotel in the city. As the novel unfolds we discover Alice’s past, why she fled Harlem with a gunshot wound and we learn about those Alice has befriended in the Paragon Hotel. 

I enjoyed The Paragon Hotel. The storyline goes back and forth between Alice’s past and her present. I found the back story of Alice growing up in Harlem an intriguing story and I was hooked wondering what happened that made her flee. I loved the unique characters that lived in the Paragon Hotel  and I found myself caught up in the struggles they each faced. I also learned a lot about the Ku Klux Klan in Portland during this time period of 1921. There was also a bit of a mystery as the characters living in the hotel search for a missing orphan child. I found Alice’s past with the Mafia and her present with the Ku Klux Klan fascinating as the author explored their differences and similarities. 

The Paragon Hotel was a quick, fast moving story and the time period of 1921 was well showcased. It was a fun read while also tackling issues of the time period and I learned more of what life was like during this time for people of different races and groups.
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This novel took a while for me to get into. The mystery does not begin till the middle of the novel. Other than that, I thought the novel had vivid historical detail. I recommend this for fans of Phryner Fischer mysteries.
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The essence of “The Paragon Hotel [Lyndsay Faye/G.P. Putnam’s Sons/432pgs], shows a texture of different lives being lived in the essence of a period piece with a very relevant social message. Above all, within the structure, Alice “Nobody”, who grew up as the daughter of a sex worker in 1920s Harlem, shows an interesting dichotomy of structures. The texture of the gangster landscape and of innocence lost serves strictly as the set up and not the rule of thumb. Nobody knows who she is inherently at the get go and what she is good at. Her life was never meant to follow that of her mother but to disappear into the ether with a sense of knowing. It is her circumstances and her strengths that allow her to evolve within the idea of who she could be which is inherently a spy for the mob. The balance of the story teeters from her old life in Harlem and what caused her to escape under physical duress on a train to Oregon to the rightly named Paragon Hotel, where everything is perceived from altered angles. The social upheaval there gives an interesting parallel to her situation but in an all together different perception of tolerance and understanding. All the people within this structure are not necessarily good people but they are creatures of circumstance, Blossom Fontaine is one of the most interesting parallels considering her backstory. Alice ends up being the unwanted resident of an all black hotel in Portland undergoing its own sort of intrinsic social battle and persecution. The author gives a view into the racial strife suffered by the residents there despite the location being in the Pacific Northwest. The intrinsic nature of the KKK, its perceived influence and the balance of behavior because of different progressions of time especially involving the wife of the chief of police: Evy and a young colored boy: Davy who goes missing, create the the conflict and propelling nature of the story. However it is the intrinsic nature of the relationships of Alice and their psychological structure, specifically with her childhood friend Nicolo in Harlem in direct relation to her burgeoning friendship with Blossom, a cabaret performer that really make the story work in addition to her gangster guardian: The Spider, who both creates and destroys her despite his best intentions in the same breath. The different personalities in the Paragon Hotel from the cook to the elevator operator to the head of the house also paint a very vivid portrait because the puzzle pieces don’t fit together at all yet they still operate as a whole. Even Alice’s guardian angel in Portland, Max, a lieutenant from the 1st World War turned porter, who in a matter of fate saves her despite the danger to his own person (in saving a white woman who is undeniably in pain in an arena where it might have been better left alone) parallels a similar structure which propelled “Mudbound”, a Netflix film set in the same period starring Jason Mitchell and Carey Mulligan. Ultimately “The Paragon Hotel” is a novel about identity and how one changes to fit a certain idea yet the truth of the personality always creeps through to the surface,’

B-

By Tim Wassberg
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A fascinating read about a woman running for her life who hides in a all black hotel and how her and the hotels guests perceptions change. A great read highly recommended
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