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Blackbird Houseby Alice Hoffman
Synopses & Reviews
With "incantatory prose" that "sweeps over the reader like a dream" (Philadelphia Inquirer), Hoffman follows her celebrated bestseller, The Probable Future, with an evocative work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years.
In a rare and gorgeous departure, beloved novelist Alice Hoffman weaves a web of tales, all set in Blackbird House. This small farm on the outer reaches of Cape Cod is a place that is as bewitching and alive as the characters we meet: Violet, a brilliant girl who is in love with books and with a man destined to betray her; Lysander Wynn, attacked by a halibut as big as a horse, certain that his life is ruined until a boarder wearing red boots arrives to change everything; Maya Cooper, who does not understand the true meaning of the love between her mother and father until it is nearly too late. From the time of the British occupation of Massachusetts to our own modern world, family after family's lives are inexorably changed, not only by the people they love but by the lives they lead inside Blackbird House.
These interconnected narratives are as intelligent as they are haunting, as luminous as they are unusual. Inside Blackbird House more than a dozen men and women learn how love transforms us and how it is the one lasting element in our lives. The past both dissipates and remains contained inside the rooms of Blackbird House, where there are terrible secrets, inspired beauty, and, above all else, a spirit of coming home.
From the writer Time has said tells "truths powerful enough to break a reader's heart" comes a glorious travelogue through time and fate, through loss and love and survival. Welcome to Blackbird House.
"Prolific novelist Hoffman (The Probable Future; Blue Diary; etc.) offers 12 lush and lilting interconnected stories, all taking place in the same Cape Cod farmhouse over the course of generations. Built during British colonial days by a man who dies tragically on a final fishing trip, Blackbird House is home, in the following generation, to a man who lost his leg to a giant halibut. In the late 19th century, Blackbird inhabitant Violet Cross has a brief affair with a Harvard scholar who inevitably betrays her; in the story that follows, she pushes her son, Lion West, to Harvard in 1908, which in turn launches him to life — and early death — in England. Lion's orphaned son, Lion West Jr., serves in World War II and meets a German-Jewish woman spirited enough to stand up to his possessive grandmother Violet. Hoffman's symbols are lovingly presented and polished: the 10-year-old boy who drowned with his father in the first story sets free a pet blackbird, who returns, now all white, to live with the boy's mother; in the last two stories, a 10-year-old boy blames a white crow for his mischief, and, a generation later, that boy's grown-up sister meets a 10-year-old boy who makes her reconsider selling Blackbird House. Fire, water, milk, pears, halibut — these, too, play important symbolic and sometimes almost magical roles. This may not be the subtlest of literary devices, but Hoffman's lyrical prose weaves an undeniable spell. Agent, Elaine Markson. (Aug. 1)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A quiet but deeply moving achievement of lyric power." Kirkus Reviews
"As the stories leapfrog from colonial times toward the present, Hoffman, a subtle conjurer of telling details and ironic predicaments, orchestrates intense romances and profound sacrifices." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[H]aunted — and haunting — characters populate [these] tales, which are also notable for their intense sense of place. Hoffman's many fans should welcome this little gem with enthusiasm. Recommended." Library Journal
"The stories are stamped with...signatures of magic-suffused nature....These are fairy tales with one foot in reality." Anita Sama, USA Today
"Hoffman masterfully plays with the tensions between character and place, creating a setting so vivid that it breathes and bleeds along with her characters." Rebecca Taylor, Seattle Times
"[L]anguage that is both eerie and beautiful....Hoffman lets Blackbird House stand as an emblem for the transforming power of any long-established home, while reveling in the haunting quality of her own distinctive literary style." New York Times Book Review
"Hoffman spins a phantasmagoria of color...at the expense of plot, exposition, and dialogue....The characters are so unrefined and underwritten it would take a genealogist to untangle their relationships. (Grade: D)" Entertainment Weekly
"These tales are so beautifully crafted that it's almost painful to admit that they are, too often, also a bore....
"Several of Hoffman's stories...are about as deep as a puddle....Although there are a few pages in Blackbird House that demonstrate the skill that Hoffman has developed in writing 16 books, they don't add up to much." Jenny Shank, Rocky Mountain News
"The stories showcase Hoffman's own magical powers of description, demonstrated here by vivid evocations of the lush natural world....Hoffman...uses her lyrical gift to fine advantage in Blackbird House." Carole Goldberg, Hartford Courant
"Hoffman does everything right in these lyrical stories, rich with metaphor and meaning." Nancy Pate, Orlando Sentinel
"Hoffman creates many charming and intriguing people and events to carry her tale. Their lives are most often sketched in summary with minimal dialogue, which gives the prose an old-fashioned flavor." Irene Wanner, San Francisco Chronicle
"Storytelling doesn't get any better. And while the tales in this book are not as steeped in magic as those in Hoffman's past efforts, she is in top form with Blackbird House..." Dorman T. Shindler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
About the Author
Alice Hoffman is the author of sixteen acclaimed novels, including Practical Magic, Here on Earth, Blue Diary, and, most recently, The Probable Future. She has also written five books for children. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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