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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.
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.