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1.0 out of 5 starsDisenchanted
Reviewed in Canada on December 4, 2011
Alice Hoffman usually writes of magic and darkness with elan, with great heart and hope. The Red Garden has a hint of magic here and there, but little heart and no hope. It's primarily darkness, chock full of traumatic events and despair. There is one theme: life is brutal. It's a series of short stories that are linked by place and ancestry but by the fifth story, the links are lost. I believe the cause was inadequate character development; I didn't understand what drove the characters, why they acted or felt as they did, so they were eminently forgettable. The stories were so depressing, I dreaded picking up the book. Very glad to be done with it.
On a whim I decided to read an sample of this book. I was caught, pulled into a web of memories. I felt like I was reading my father's diary. I watched the family grow and felt I was a part of their lives. I loved this book. The emotions that it invoked so quietly that I would forget I was reading fiction. Such a beautiful tapestry. I am so pleased to have read this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe Red Garden is a book of a series of connected stories.
Reviewed in Canada on November 24, 2019
This is a book of tales about the founding of Blackwell Massachusetts in 1750 until almost the present day. Alice Hoffman is a wonderful story teller. This book as with all her books is an excellent read.
4.0 out of 5 starsAmerican folklore, a look inside the genesis of a town.
Reviewed in Canada on February 10, 2019
This was an interesting and thought provoking read. Each chapter an essay in the life of this town and these people. It contains some great commentaries on the human condition. I had to read each chapter to its conclusion before I could put it down. Terrific!
It was an interesting concept...following the population of a town from its inception, through the generations' links by birth or marriage and the newcomers' arrivals and absorption as citizens. It was a bit dark for my taste. My favourite bit... without creating any spoilers....was the evolution - without fanfare - of the name of a certain field.
Intriguing stories linking generations of families from the founders of the village to present. Each story had its own twist showing the strengths and weaknesses of mankind. Captivating yet easy reading.
3.0 out of 5 starsSometime magical but ultimately unfulfilling
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 19, 2018
I read the book on my Kindle . I think that was one of the reasons I found it challenging . It was essentially a book of short stories across several generations revolving around an American town from its inception in the 1700s to the almost present day. I got confused about the family lieneage and in a regular book I could have flipped back and checked who was who and this would have helped enormously. Some of the stories were magical but others lacked credibility and ultimately I struggled to work out the underlying message of the book . Perhaps it was just me and my mood when I read it. I have read The Dove Keepers by the same author and really loved it. The Red Garden was not in the same league . I will read more of Alice Hoffman but maybe in book form next time .
I like the ones that are hopeful with second chances and positive endings like Probable Future and Practical Magic etc. My issue with this book was it was really a collection of very short stories (albeit based in the same place and going through generations of the same family)so there wasn't the character or plot development to make things interesting and no real conclusions. My mother like it though (she reads a lot and likes 'good' writing if that helps...).
I love Alice Hoffman and wasn't disappointed by this book. The story maps the events in one town through numerous generations from its founding to modern day. Many of the stories are connected by a character or event so you might find yourself flicking back through the book.
This story is strong throughout and keeps you page turning. I think what made it a different read was your awareness of the characters passing away as your swan through the decades of time. As always Alice Hoffman evokes deep emotion through her talented illustration writing and I was very much kept enthralled. Another fantastic read.
i loved this book as i do all hers in fact she cannot write quickly enough for me, or i wish i could find an author who writes similar to her, i read her books over and over again ide give her a 100 stars if i could...
Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2019
I tend to disagree with the review from Bookmarks Magazine that Amazon has included here. Even though they end up saying favorable things about the book, I think they missed the point of this book. This is a splendid, beautiful work! I guess it would qualitfy as "historical" fiction, but ah--it's so much more than that. I have purchased SO MANY books "on Kindle" here--and been disappointed. I have no time for poorly written literature! If it sucks it gets thrown aside--no qualms whatsoever. I used to grind through a book once picked up even if I didn't like it. I try to give everything a fair shake, but I've come across so much awkwardly reprehensible writing. There seems to be a trend in fiction these last few years to over-simplify the language, the sentence structure, the images. Most of it just falls flat, and is tediously dull in tone. THIS work is resplendent, luxurious, dreamy, and lyrical. While reading this, one conjers up beautiful, meaningful imagery. You can really really sink your mind into it, like delving deep into a velvety quilt. This work evokes emotions through nuance, through understanding. Quite literally, this is the BEST literary fiction I have read in quite awhile. I am following this author, and eagerly look forward to reading more of her heady fare!
5.0 out of 5 starsBeautiful Stories with Rich Characters
Reviewed in the United States on August 7, 2017
The beautiful story of a 300-year history of Blackwell, Massachusetts, from its founding through its growth. The story is told beautifully through the eyes of different inhabitants in different time periods. A red garden is central throughout the book: everything planted there blooms red. It captures unexpected turns in its history and along the way causes us to examine our own lives. From the town's founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City with only his dog for company, the characters in The Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives. At the center of everyone’s life is a mysterious garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look. The book is magically and beautifully written, and stayed with me long after I finished reading it.
5.0 out of 5 starsMagical collection of short stories!
Reviewed in the United States on August 17, 2016
Alice Hoffman is one of my all-time favorite authors and "The Red Garden" was another gem to read! Magical and thought-provoking, this collection of stories is intriguing from page one through to the end. I love that each story has some common threads and how they build on each other. Originally not what I expected, but delightful none-the-less!
I have yet to find an Alice Hoffman book that has not enchanted me from beginning to end. Thankful to add this to my ever-growing collection of Alice Hoffman's works!