Thursday, February 11, 2016

Staff Picks: The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

I like magical realism in books. I love how writers can incorporate ordinary events together with dreamlike elements, legends, and fairy talesas if my grandmother told me stories.

Recently I have read the novel The Red Garden (M) by Alice Hoffman. The Red Garden is a collection of 14 connected short stories that narrate the history of a small town, Blackwell, Massachusetts, from 1750 to the 20th century. Fictional Blackwell (earlier known as Bearsville, due to the large population of bears) is the link between all the characters. From story to story readers will notice that the same last names appear and the same gossip, myths, and tales repeat themselves through generations.

Alice Hoffman is often known as a magical realist, and her work in The Red Garden is no exception. Like a breeze on the gentle air, her novel is infused with magic and takes the reader to the land of Blackwell where images of ghosts, bears, apple trees, and people blend into the town's colourful palette of living. And, there is the red garden, a symbol of love and loss, where the soil is blood red, the plants bloom blood red, where passions run high and bones lie buried in secret. The stories will whip up emotions because of terrible incidents, passion, and haunting images. "A story can still entrance people even while the world is falling apart," says Hoffman, and I assure you that Hoffman's novels will inspire you in these days to dream of spring and possibilities.

In an article about Alice Hoffman found on Novelist, Kaite Mediatore suggests that if Hoffman's writing, with its “blend of earthy and ethereal characters” appeals to you, then you might also like works by the following authors (quotes from Novelist unless otherwise indicated):

Laura Esquivel (M) whose novels “explore the magic of love through food, the telegraph, reincarnation and music”.

Alice McDermott
(M) whose “stories are more serious in tone and set on Long Island in New York” -

Sandra Dallas
(M) whose novels “focus on the devoted friendships of her female characters and include an intriguing twist at the conclusions”

W.P. Kinsella (M) who “finds the magical quality in his novel, Shoeless Joe”. - Harmony Library Blog.

~ by Julia

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