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Illumination Night Paperback – February 5, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With an eye for household details and respect for daily events, Hoffman (Fortune's Daughter unleashes the mythic forcefulness of ordinary life in this polished story of love and loneliness set on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Simon is in his fourth year and small even for his age when he sees white-robed Elizabeth Renny, a neighbor in her 75th, tumble out her attic window "like a cloud." In her convalescence, Elizabeth is cared for by her rebellious teen-aged granddaughter Jody, sent from off-island. Jody sets her sights on Simon's father, Andre, who restores antique motorcycles, raising doubts and fears in Vonny, Simon's mother, Andre's wife. Elizabeth recovers; Jody pines and plots for the taciturn Andre; Simon doesn't grow; and Vonny's anxieties bloom into full-fledged agoraphobia. Seasons advance. Jody learns the limits of her desires and meets a freakishly tall eggman; a child dies, another grows; Elizabeth decides she'd rather live than die; and Vonny faces her fears. Illumination Night, an annual celebration on Martha's Vineyard when Victorian houses surrounding a park and bandstand are lit with hundreds of magical Japanese lanterns, provides apt title and image for this shimmering, radiant tale.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Daringly mixing comedy with tragedy…[Hoffman] has created a narrative that somehow makes myth out of the sticky complexities of contemporary marriage…Her characters are branded onto one’s memory.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Vivid, convincing characters…uncommon insight.”—People

“[A] bright constellation of characters…draws the reader into the dusky, dreamy world of Alice Hoffman.”—St. Petersburg Times

“Alice Hoffman takes seemingly ordinary lives and lets us see and feel extraordinary things.”—Amy Tan

“Not-so-delicate questions are raised in a wonderfully delicate way in Alice Hoffman’s latest novel… Explorations of the tangled strands of parenthood and friendship, self-protection and generosity, dream and disillusionment are made achingly vivid by Hoffman’s ability to ground them in the finely etched details of her characters’ daily lives.”—Newsday

“There is a cumulative power to Illumination Night that is wondrous…It’s enough to make one search out other books by Alice Hoffman.”—The Chicago Tribune

“Reading an authentic prose stylist of high order is an uncommon privilege.”—The Boston Globe

“Alice Hoffman hits bull’s eyes on the incomprehensions between the young and the old, on the magic and pain of ordinary life. She is erotic and romantic…funny…clever and humane.”—The Times (London)


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425183262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425183267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

Magical in all the ways that Alice Hoffmans books always are.
Jamie M. Lynaugh
The characters were flexible and the little touches of "magic" here and there make it a very cozy, interesting book.
Jack Fisher
I was left clueless and a little angry about wasting my time.
Betsy Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on August 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book on a summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard and was both charmed and entertained by it. The tradition of Illumination Night and the summer gatherings of Methodist families on the island make a kind of magical, firefly-lit ambiance for this tale of people, young and old, whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.
The most fascinating character for me was the agoraphobic young wife, trapped in her house by fears she can barely articulate. Hoffman's treatment of this characters is so realistic and convincing that after reading the novel I felt for the first time that I not only understood this condition; I had lived it.
While the gentle-giant young man is a bit of a surprise for someone reading Hoffman for the first time, she also makes this character perfectly plausible and sympathetic. You can accept the young girl's falling in love with him because we come to care about him ourselves, while realizing that she has the power to break his heart.
As a writer, Hoffman leaves you with the impression that she feels deeply for her characters, regardless of their weaknesses and shortcomings. And putting down this novel, you can feel in yourself a tender-heartedness for others that most books either don't try to evoke, or try and fail.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jenny on July 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was the first book I ever read of Alice Hoffman, and I was completely amazed by her talent of writing such vivid and enchanting tales of ordinary people. Illumination night is a somewhat sad tale about destructive and longing love, that is destined to fail from the beginning. I could feel the pain that the young girl felt, knowing that the man she loved could never be hers. This is a story of passage, a young girl grows up and faces reality and her grandmother grows older and faces the fact that death cannot be avoided. After reading this book I got hooked on Hoffman's books. This is still my favorite book, alongside HERE ON EARTH. I really recommend this book if you aren't afraid of getting touched. Tears will fall, but in the end you will feel very whole.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Illumination Night is the seventh book I have read by Alice Hoffman. I wasn't too sure I would like this book, but it was a delightful surprise.
This book centers around Andre and Vonny, a couple who lives on Martha's Vineyard with their four-year-old boy, Simon. Andre and Vonny are having some martial problems, which is complicated by Andre's failing business and financial troubles, the worry that Simon has some defective genetic disease that prevents him from growing, and Jody, who moves in next door.
Jody is Elizabeth Renny's grandchild, and she was sent there in part because her parents were experiencing marital problems of their own, and also in part because Elizabeth was having trouble seeing and getting around. Jody is a sixteen-year-old teenager who likes to steal cars, manipulate boys, smoke cigarettes, skip school, and sleep with the neighbor's husband.
Jody becomes Simon's baby-sitter, and pretty soon, Andre can't control himself. Soon after that, Vonny snaps and can no longer leave the house. She finds out that she's having panic attacks, which seems to make her and her husband grow closer for the time being.
Jody finally loses interest in Andre when she spots the beautiful Giant in the woods, named Edward. At this point, you are sucked up in a romance of two unlikely people, much like a Beauty and the Beast.
This detailed and intricate storytelling is woven around high-charged emotions and mystical surroundings. It is this kind of tale-telling that Alice Hoffman is known for, and what she does best. Illumination Night is a truly engrossing read, and is shows further evidence of what a great writer Alice Hoffman is.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Cutsail on July 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of Alice Hoffman's earlier books. It's filled with the magic realism for which she is known. The characters are all well drawn, especially Vonny and Mrs. Renny. I couldn't understand the husband's actions, however, and just did not feel much sympathy for him. Anyway, I love anything written by Alice Hoffman and always find her characterizations so natural. The people and their actions usually ring pretty true. Ms. Hoffman paints beautifully with words, and this is a perfect book for summer.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Sandell on May 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I always feel, when I pick up a book by Ms. Hoffman, that I am in for a treat and this book was no exception. I love the descriptive almost poetic style of writing. From the beginning, the reader is taken on a magical, mystical journey that is not easily forgotten. There are parts of this book that seemingly come from a children's fairy tale or fableyet hey seem entirely plausible because, I think, Ms. Hoffman really cares about her characters and what happens to them.
The reader will enjoy this story of a modern marriage, a young woman who is trapped by her fears, a high school girl that is at the heart of all the sin and passion of the story. This is a good story of myth, magic and reality
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Illumination Night is a sadly sweet story of a slightly disfunctional young family coming to terms with their disappointments as well as their mortality. Simon, the slight four year old who only yearns to grow, is juxtaposed with his elderly neighbor who seems to be getting smaller and younger. His mom is becoming unnaturally fearful as the dangers of the world seem to increasingly threaten her family. Meanwhile the rebellious teenager of the elderly neighbor has found meaning in caring for her grandmother, and the giant down the road only wants to be loved. What a cast of characters! Ms Hoffman lets you see into the heart of each. Her slightly askew but likable people remind me of the type of characters Anne Tyler invents. This was my first Alice Hoffman story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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