Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel
by William Trevor
1969 / 265 pages (and I’m reading the paperback!)
rating – 8.5
Mrs Ivy Eckdorf is a strange gal – 40-ish and divorced again, she works as a photographer. She decides to visit Dublin‘s O’Neill’s Hotel because she’s heard it’s got strange things going on now and in the past. .
The aging deaf and mute Mrs Sinnott, who lives in one of the upper rooms, owns the hotel, but her son, Eugene, is a drunk and a gambling addict and it is he who manages it, spending as little as possible on maintenance. O’Neill’s Hotel used to be an upscale sort of place, but it’s fallen into disrepute – serious disrepute – and disrpair as well. The aging Mr O’Shea does the butlering but he seems not quite right in the head anymore, longs for the old days- goes off on day-dreams. And a guy named Morrissey uses the rooms for his line-up of aging hookers.
The eponymous Mrs Eckdorf, whose intrusive and somewhat unbalanced character is on display from Chapter 1, has decided to investigate matters. She heard about the hotel from a barman on a cruise ship and being a photographer (or saying she is) she wants to find out what she senses must be the real tragedy that initiated the downfall of the hotel.
When she finally get there Mrs Eckdorf says she’s thinking of buying the place and interviews several people including O’Shea, Eugene Sinnott, Eugene’s ex-wife Philomena and their son Timmy. She also calls on Mr and Mrs Gregan, Mrs Sinnott’s daughter and her hubby as well as Father Hennessy, an aging Catholic priest from across the street. Finally she peruses the “exercise books” which have been kept by old Mrs Sinnot over the years in which the other regulars of the hotel characters have left messages because not only is she 91, she’s also deaf and mute.
Mrs Eckdorf is convinced that soemthing terribly tragic and romantic happened there – but did it? What did happen?
This is a book about perception and imagination and lies and delusions – this is a deceptively simple narrative with a whole lot going on underneath.