Pages - 262
Published by Chatto and Windus in 2007
Challenges - Once Upon A Time, 100+ and Library Challenge.
I have been desperate to read an Alice Hoffman book since the beginning of the year, when I discovered that she had written the book Practical Magic, which is one of my favourite all time films. In England, Alice Hoffman is not well known, my friend and I have spent the last couple of months tracking her books down, but found that they were few and far between over here.
I decided to read this one, as it was the first and only one I found in the library. I wish I could say it was my best introduction to her books, but I am not sure it was.
This is the story of Arlyn, who begins the book by sitting on her deceased fathers doorstep, waiting for her destiny to find her. She has convinced herself that the next man who passes the house will be the love of her life. John Moody, a young student lost on his way to a party stops to ask directions and without realising changes the future path of his life and becomes destined to have Arlyn with him for ever.
Arlyn pursues John, until he succumbs to her passion and their life together begins. However, all is not rosy in their relationship and Arlyn realises that perhaps John was not meant to be her destiny. She is desperate to escape with her children, Sam and Blanca to live with the man she truly loves but her escape is not the one she would have liked.
Years later, a young woman called Meredith becomes drawn to the family and after miraculously being able to coax the teenage drug abused Sam off the roof of their glass house, she moves in as their full time nanny. She is aware that the family are heading for disaster and does all she can to protect them and help them back to normality, under the constant gaze of the spectral Arlyn. Can Meredith save the family?
This book appears to be in three parts. The first part deals with Arlyn's relationship with John, the second deals with Sam's relationships with just about everyone and the third part deals with Blanca grown up relationships.
There were parts of this book I liked and other parts I hated, so this book was a real mix for me.
Within the book, I liked the way in which it was written. Her style of writing was interesting and descriptive. I felt her characterisations were well balanced and three dimensional. I loved the character of Blanca, who has a real love of books and ends up with her own unique bookstore selling only fairy tales and myths. Unfortunately her character comes too little too late in the last part of the book.
Sam is a pitiful character who no one is able to save. All through the book, it is obvious that he never recovered from the loss of his mother, who seemed to be the only one who understood him, but who should of perhaps got him help when it was quite obvious when he was young that something was not quite right with him. As a child, he kept dead animals to watch them decompose and suffered from selective muteness. As a reclusive teenager, his mind is full of myths, his body full of drugs and he spends hours standing on the roof of his house. He is convinced that when the ability would be needed, he would be able to fly. Here is a passage written from Blanca's point of view.
' When she was very young she had nearly believed Sam was capable of rising over the rooftop, just as the people in the story Sam had told her about, a secret race of people in Connecticut who waited for the most desperate moment - a ship sinking, the building burning to ash - before they revealed their ability to fly.'
I didn't like the way you got into the head of each main character and then they were killed off by the end of that section. I couldn't help but think what is the point? I was convinced the whole book would be about Arlyn and then she died and I began to lose interest in the story. A lot of the characters seemed to have that kind of helplessness about them, that you just wanted to give them a good shake and sit them down and talk it through, but you never got the opportunity. They all seemed to spiral out of control and by the end I didn't feel as if anyone had actually learnt anything from the past mistakes of others.
There is no love in this book at all, I understand that this is they way the story has been written, but you hope by the end that there would change in the way the characters felt about each other. The only one who appears to have a normal relationship is Meredith, the rest are just too scarred to deal with intimate relationships. The whole family are completely dysfunctional with no real escape to normality. This book is just full of sadness with no light at the end of the tunnel.
I don't want to give up on Alice Hoffman's books as I have heard rave reviews about other books by her, but this one was definitely not for me. I hate to dismiss a book and very rarely do I find one that I don't really like, but I have to be honest and say I really was not that keen on this one.
Anyone else read this book? What did you think of it?