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The Third Angel: A Novel Paperback – March 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this elegant and stunning novel, veteran heartstring-puller Hoffman (Here on Earth; Seventh Heaven) examines the lives of three women at different crossroads in their lives, tying their London-centered stories together in devastating retrospect. High powered New York attorney Maddy Heller arrives in 1999 London having had an affair with Paul, her sister Allie's fiancé,; she must now cope with the impending marriage, and with Paul's terminal illness—which echoes the girls' mother's cancer during their childhood. Hoffman then shifts to heady 1966 London and to Frieda Lewis, Paul's future mother, who falls for a doomed up-and-coming songwriter knowing he will break her heart. The narrative then shifts further back, to 1952 and to Maddy and Allie's future mother, Lucy Green. A bookish 12-year-old wise beyond her years, Lucy sails with her father and stepmother from New York to London for a wedding. There, she becomes an innocent catalyst to a devastating event involving a love triangle. Hoffman interweaves the three stories, gazing unerringly into forces that cause some people to self-destruct (There was no such thing as too much for a girl who thought she was second best) and others to find inner strength to last a lifetime. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Is there an American novelist who understands the complicated and mulitfacted nature of love in all its manifestations — romantic, familial, platonic — better than Alice Hoffman?... Some critics have minimed the complexity of Hoffman’s work by refering to her as a romance writers. Well, Hoffman is a romance writer, but then so were Flaubert, Proust, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen. The Third Angel is indeed a romance, but one of intricacy and pathos, with characters beautifully, believably and empathetically drawn.…The Third Angel represents yet another strong, visceral and deeply, darkly moving tale of love and heatbreak, tragedy and redemption from a writer whose keen ear for the measure struck by the beat of the human heart is unparalleled. The Third Angel is an intense, provocative and throughly affecting novel.”
The Chicago Tribune

“Like Michael Cunningham’s ‘The Hours,’ Hoffman’ s tale weaves the stories of women at key moments in their lives with revelations both stunning and inevitable.”
— The Pittsburgh Post Gazette

“Its realism, combined with a refreshing lightness and its success in portraying emotion with empathy, draws the reader into a deep involvement with the books’ appealing yet flawed characters. Each woman faces up to her challengers in her own way, proving that everyone in the end is responsible for his or her own destiny.”
— The Economist

“Hoffman’s luminous language bounces us into accepting not only coincident but also its consequences.”
— The Boston Globe

“Alice Hoffman paints her books in big strokes and bright colors, with slashes of romantic reds and blacks. She’s a teller of fairy tells, well-worn or new.”
— The Columbus Dispatch

“With a graceful nod to the power of redemption, Alice Hoffman reminds readers we are all hurt and broken, stumbling through life and fumbling for love, but sometimes we can still find out way to where we want to go.”
— Charlotte Observer

“Headstrong women, reckless love affairs and a liberal dusting of the supernatural are the pleasurable trademarks of an Alice Hoffman novel….Her passionate storytelling and
intense characters make a deeply personal connetion that should bewitch old fans and new readers alike.”
People Magazine (A “People Pick,” 4-stars)

“Un-put-downable….The Third Angel soars….an unforgettable portrait of the depth of true love.”
—USA Today

“Hoffman makes vivid and new the realization that grace, beauty, and forgiveness can arise out of the most devastating situations.”

“Alice Hoffman’s richly layered novel, The Third Angel, is one of her best.”

“Hands down, this captivating book is one of Hoffman’s best. It follows three women’s lives as they flow together and apart, tributaries linked by the same tragic love story and mysterious ghost. You’ll want to start it again as soon as you’re done.”

“A book that’s hard to put away completely. Even long after it’ s finished, you may find its characters sneaking, like ghosts, back into your head.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch

“These stories capture the fleeting happiness of doomed, misguided love.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Elegant and stunning….Hoffman interweaves the three storioes, gazing unerringly into forces that cause some people to self-destrut and others to find inner strength to last a lifetime.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“One of her best…an exceptionally well-structured, beguiling, and affecting triptych of catastrophic love stories….Not only is Hoffman spellbinding in this incandescent fusion of dark romance and penetrating psychic insight, she also opens diverse and compelling worlds, dramatizes the shocks and revelations that forge the self, and reveals the necessity and toll of empathy and kindness. Hoffman has transcended her own genre.”
Booklist (starred review)

The Third Angel places Hoffman at perhaps the pinnacle of her bountiful literary talents.”

“A mesmerizing tale of the human condition….sure to please Hoffman’s fans and win over new readers.”
Library Journal

The Third Angel is brilliantly crafted, deeply moving, and utterly enchanting. I loved these characters for their complexity, their unpredictability and for the way they showed subtle and shifting nuance in human nature. One of the best things about Alice Hoffman's writing is that she grounds you in detail and also frees your imagination to soar to places it has never been--often simultaneously.  Reading her is immensely satisfying--and addictive!”
— Elizabeth Berg, author of The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

More Praise for Alice Hoffman:

“Alice Hoffman is my favorite writer.” —Jodi Picoult

“With her glorious prose and extraordinary eyes . . . Alice Hoffman seems to know what it means to be a human being.”
—Susan Isaacs, Newsday

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

“Hoffman’s characters, male and female, tend to be defined by the restless, lonely ache of what’s missing in their lives, which becomes clear only when they fill the void with something either unexpectedly right or horribly
wrong. Along the way, Hoffman seems to wriggle into their skin, breathe their air, and think their thoughts.”
Entertainment Weekly



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405951
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,239 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on April 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book can break your heart. Alice Hoffman writes with delicacy and compassion about life and death, about loving someone with such desperation that nothing else matters. She writes about how people must forgive themselves.

The three chapters in this book are set in different times, and have different characters. The stories, all centered in London, move back in time from 1999 to 1966 to 1952. All three are interconnected, and it's not until the end that the whole picture becomes clear. All involve hopeless, betrayed love.

In the first, "The Heron's Wife," a young woman has an affair with her sister's fiancé. "Lion Park" is about a young woman seduced by a drug-addicted rock musician. "The Rules of Love" involves a precocious 12-year-old girl who innocently causes the violent death to two people in a lover's triangle.

Many themes weave throughout the book -- love, weddings, abandonment, birds, rabbits, the power of the written word... and in the end, atonement.

An extraordinary doctor explains about the Third Angel. There is the Angel of Life and the Angel of Death, neither of which can be controlled. The Third Angel, however, walks among us. He's the angel that makes mistakes. Like all of us, he sometimes needs rescuing.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Alice Hoffman's latest novel THE THIRD ANGEL consists of three stories connected by the same characters and places over different periods of time, beginning with the most recent events and going backward: I, "The Heron's Wife," 1999; II, "Lion Park," 1966 and III, "The Rules of Love," 1952. The stories also hang together because the same themes run through each of them. Who is better to say what Ms. Hoffman writes about than the author, herself? In a recent reading, she told the audience that her books are always about love and loss. In "The Heron's Wife," Maddy falls in love-- she thinks-- with her sister's fiance Paul, when she goes to London for her sister Allie's wedding. In "Lion Park"-- the name of a hotel in London where much of the action takes place over the years-- Frieda, who later becomes the mother of Paul, falls for a rock star addicted to hard drugs although he is in love with someone else. Finally in "The Rules of Love" the twelve-year-old Lucy (later the mother of Maddy and Allie) gets caught up in a tragedy where another character is in love with a women who marries someone else.

Ms. Hoffman's characters in this novel fall in love with the wrong person, or with the right person but too early or too late. Then they may settle-- in the case of Frieda-- for a "nice man." Although love may be simple, it is not rational. The author also writes about the love of parents for children. As one character puts it: "You won't believe how much you'll love your child." Even though Hoffman's complex characters are flawed, seldom turning out the way their parents had hoped they would (sound familiar?), and may do bad acts, betraying those they love, they also often have redeeming qualities as well.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By PamBakNJ VINE VOICE on September 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read all of Alice Hoffman's books and absolutely love her style. She seems to have a deep connection with the spiritual and is able to bring it off the page and into your heart. I found this book gripping and often hard to put down, however, it was a bit confusing with it going backwards. I think I would have appreciated it more if it was written in reverse order. I did love the explanation of the Angel of Life and the Angel of Death along with the "Third Angel" that walks among us. I found the three different (yet the same) story lines to be interesting and captivating. Ms. Hoffman was able to show us the humanity of the doctor in both the positive and negative. All in all I really enjoyed the book but I gave it three stars because I found the backward style confusing for me. It appears that most others did not, so perhaps it's just me.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Manista on February 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book was quite a disappointment. Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors and I expected a lot from this book, as I do of all her books. But right from the first page I knew there was trouble. I didn't like the voice of the first main character, Maddy. And as I learned more about Maddy (we do learn a little bit), the less I liked her character. I found her to be shallow, jealous, self-centered and very annoying. And what she does is despicable.

The book is sectioned into 3 parts focusing on 3 different women at 3 different times. You learn that all the women are interrelated in some way. Each section could be a novel on it's own, and probably should have been. I felt that Hoffman didn't develop any of her characters. She left them flat and in the cases of Maddy and Frieda, downright unlikeable. The only character I felt she did justice with was Lucy and unfortunately hers is the last section of the novel. All the stories are left wanting more. None come to any kind of satisfactory resolution.

And then there was the story of the Heron and the story of the Third Angel. These stories, meant to reflect in the characters, felt forced. Like an amateur writer trying to make her book 'deep' with metaphor. But Hoffman is no amateur writer so these stories just fell flat and adding nothing to the scope of the novel. Especially the heron story.

I know this is not how you are supposed to read a book, but if you want to get the most of this one, read it backwards: Lucy's section first, then Frieda, then Maddy. Or if you are a glutton for punishment, read it normally and then read it a second time. I really disliked the book so there is no way I am re-reading it.

If you are a Hoffman fan, skip this one. I wish I had.
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