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The Ice Queen: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, January 3, 2006
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A solitary New Jersey librarian whose favorite book is a guide to suicide methods is struck by lightning in Alice Hoffman's superb novel, The Ice Queen. Orphaned at the age of eight after angrily wishing she would never see her mother again, our heroine found herself frozen emotionally: "I was the child who stomped her feet and made a single wish and in so doing ended the whole worldmy world, at any rate." Her brother Ned solved the pain of their mother's death by becoming a meteorologist: applying reason and logic to bad weather. Eventually, he invites our heroine to move down to Florida, where he teaches at a university. Here, while trying to swat a fly, she is struck by lightning (the resulting neurological damage includes an inability to see the color red). Orlon County turns out to receive two thirds of all the lightning strikes in Florida each year, and our heroine soon becomes drawn into the mysteries of lightning: the withering of trees and landscape near a strike, the medical traumas and odd new abilities of victims, the myths of renewal. Although a recluse, she becomes fascinated by a legendary local farmer nicknamed Lazarus Jones, said to have beaten death after a lightning strike: to have seen the other side and come back. The burning match to her cool reserve--her personal unguided tour through Hades--Lazarus will prove to be the talisman that restores her to girlhood innocence and possibility.
Hoffman's story advances with a feline economy of language and movement--not a word spared for the color of the sky, unless the color of the sky factors into the narrative. Among the authors who have played with the fairy tale's harsh mercies (e.g. Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter), Hoffman has the closest understanding of the primal fears that drive the genre, and why, perhaps, we never outgrow fairy stories, but only learn to substitute dull, wholesome qualities like personal initiative or good timing for the elements that raise the hairs on our neck and send us scrambling for the light switch. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes... burn your tongue the moment they're spoken and you can never take them back." Thus begins Hoffman's (Practical Magic; Here on Earth) stellar 18th novel about healing and transformation. As an eight-year-old, the unnamed narrator makes a terrible wish that comes true; remorseful for the next 30 years, she shuts down emotionally to become a self-proclaimed ice queen. Unlike her brother, Ned, who relies on logic, math and science to make sense of the world, the loner librarian fears the chaotic randomness of existence and is obsessed by death. Then lightning strikes, literally. In a flash, she's jolted out of her rut, noticing for the first time all that she's been taking for granted—even the color red, which after the strike she can no longer see: "How could I have been so stupid to ignore everything I'd had in my life? The color red alone was worth kingdoms." The novel turns sultry when the slowly melting ice queen seeks out reclusive Lazarus Jones, a fellow lightning survivor who came back to life after 40 minutes of death: "I wanted a man like that, one it was impossible to kill, who wouldn't flinch if you wished him dead." Blanketed in prose that has never been dreamier and gloriously vivid imagery, this life-affirming fable is ripe with Hoffman's trademark symbolism and magic, but with a steelier edge: "Every fairy tale had a bloody lining. Every one had teeth and claws." Both longtime fans and newcomers will relish it. Agent, Elaine Markson. 10-city author tour. (Apr. 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
An almost invisible librarian from New Jersey lives an almost invisible life, carefully removing herself from any emotional attachments after the death of her mother when she was a young girl.
Her older brother, Ned, is her portal to the outside world. When their grandmother dies, Ned moves her to Florida, where's he's a married professor.
On a particulary hot day, the librarian (whose name is never given) survives a direct hit by lightning. She reluctantly agrees to become part of a study with other lightning strike survivors. She hears of a man named Lazarus Jones . . . nicknamed so because he was apparently dead for 40 minutes after a lightning strike, woke up, and simply walked out the hospital.
Our ice queen is compelled to find Lazarus Jones and hear his side of the story. Jones, it seems, is still burning (literally) from the strike, while our heroine's world has gone cold and gray (literally).
One of the wonderful things about reading anything Hoffman writes is that you must suspend your traditional beliefs and abandon universal truths to completely "get" her stories.
I read the book in one sitting. Mystical. Intriguing. Thought-provoking. Ultimately satisfying.
Yep. That's Hoffman at her best.
Later, when the woman's brother, Ned, moves his sister to Florida from New Jersey, the thirty-something woman remains as frozen and isolated as a princess in a fairy tale. Carelessly, she makes another fateful wish, to be struck by lightning. Viola! Once more her wish is granted. Now a survivor of a lightning strike, like others gathered for a scientific study, the woman has great difficulty returning to a normal life. But this lady has already marked herself, believing she has the ability to wish away life or bring on a lightning strike.
Through her meetings with other survivors, the woman, like a turtle, gradually pokes her head out to notice the others who inhabit the world, even in this bizarre situation. Piqued by curiosity about a man who is dead for forty minutes before returning to life, she follows an impulse to meet Lazarus Jones. They are opposites, he fire and she ice. They meet in the dark, igniting each other, a combustible romance that cannot last but is impossible to resist.
The woman's long, slow awakening is the theme of the novel, her quest to understand death and free herself from the restraints that have turned her life into a hollow shell: "The way to trick death. Breathe in. Breathe out.Read more ›
After the loss of her mother when she was a child, a loss she blames herself for as one could think only a child could, the protagonist becomes rigid and emotionally devoid. Her reaction is understandably modern response as many today insulate themselves into not feeling anything rather than feeling both pleasure and pain. It is also the response found often in traumatized children. However some of the themes of this book actually harken back to the works of the ancient Greeks.
Her brother becomes a meteorologist in contrast to "the ice queen" and here we have two approaches to our lives: the logical and the mystical.
However her wishes again become reality as an adult when she is struck by lightening. So is the ice queen omnipotent or hounded by the Furies?
First believing she caused a death, then as an adult surviving death she find herself seeking out a man nicknamed "Lazerus" who was also struck by lightening. Ah, the Gods!
Through it all the ice queen journeys on a path of enlightenment.
This is my first exposure to Alice Hoffman's work and I find it both enchanting and intellectually satisfying. A Jungian fairy tale that I recommend.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a good read of sadness, growth, and magical realism. I enjoy Hoffman's writing stylePublished 1 month ago by jeekle
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This book was not as engaging as the other books I have read by Alice Hoffman (some of which have been really captivating). Read morePublished 2 months ago by Melissa L. Swedberg
ALice Hoffman is always a mystical writer and I enjoy her vast knowledge of plants and their properties. Great readPublished 3 months ago by grandma of 8
She has a way with words, that are so beautiful and painful at the same time! This is the second book I've read and she is becoming one of my favorite authors.Published 4 months ago by Tiffany H. Rackham
Just another fine bit of work from Alice. characters, plot line and pace, all just right. Redemption, second chances, misfits, love and drama... it's all here.Published 5 months ago by Chuck