Book Review: The River King by Alice Hoffman
October 20, 2012 13 Comments
Alice Hoffman used to be a favorite writer of mine, ten or so years back. Lately, I have not enjoyed her books quite so much, and this is another one (albeit one from 12 years back) that I had some issues with. I did enjoy the story as such, though.
The River King: What it is about
From amazon.com: “For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the center of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the village from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. But one October night the two worlds are thrust together due to an inexplicable death, and the town’s divided history is revealed in all its complexity. The lives of everyone involved are unraveled: from Carlin Leander, the fifteen-year-old girl who is as loyal as she is proud, to Betsy Chase, a woman running from her own destiny; from August Pierce, a boy who unexpectedly finds courage in his darkest hour, to Abel Grey, the police officer who refuses to let unspeakable actions–both past and present–slide by without notice.”
The River King: What I thought
Hoffman is a great story teller but that was just what this book was for me: a story, the whole way through. It never became a reality for me; there was always a distance. The story was interesting enough but no character was described in such a way that I identified with them, at most I felt a little affection for them and a hope that things would end well for them.
Almost throughout the whole book there were descriptions about the school, the town, the people and their habits and histories. The introduction of new information never really ended and I never felt I knew the place and people, so I stayed a distant observer.
The story of what happened to Gus was presented by an all-knowing narrator, towards the ending of the book. Although Abel Grey, the police officer, was researching the case, we didn’t get the story from his point of view, his findings or hypotheses, but an all-knowing narrator just gave the whole story away.
Otherwise, the story was fun to read, I love stories about boarding schools and about people in a small town. There was also an element of magical realism, just enough to make it mysterious, but not enough to make the story (very) unbelievable. Also, it was fun to try and explain Gus’ death, and so was the love story between Abel and Betsy, although that was slow-going.
Extra: I read this book for the RIP VII challenge.