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The Red Garden Paperback – August 2, 2011
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Intrusion: A Novel
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Top Customer Reviews
Characters come to town, live, leave, die, wander, return but always carry the thread of the town with them. The characters are so beautifully written, it's hard to choose a favorite chapter/story. The two chapters I enjoyed most were "The Principles of Devotion", the story of a loyal dog living at the grave of his owner and the "Monster of Blackwell", a young man who separates himself from society and lives in the mountains outside Blackwell. These chapters are achingly beautiful.
The red garden refers to the founder's (Hallie Brady) garden where the soil is as red as blood and everything that grows in it is red. Perhaps a symbol of life and death; the connection we all have to nature and each other.
Hoffman doesn't go on and on with flowery prose; her writing is edited, beautiful and powerful. She always manages to capture the beauty of a moment and the setting of the story, infusing it with her understanding of humanity.
Alice Hoffman once again mixes the mystical and logical and bakes us a wonderful array of stories that are sure to please.
THE RED GARDEN consists of a series of short stories all inter-woven and blending together to create one of the best books Hoffman has ever written. As the stories unfold, we first meet one Hallie Brady and a handful of other settlers who are stranded during inclement weather. They survive the hardships of their first winter together and create a new town called Bearsville. This first story or chapter, THE BEAR'S HOUSE, starts in the year 1750, with the final story, KING OF THE BEES, taking place currently.
Hoffman introduces us to a number of engaging characters who are all somehow related to someone in this small Massachusetts town. Each character tells their story and we are constantly meeting interesting, wonderful, and magical people. The same characters pop up here and there throughout the entire book. Each story is different and enchanting, moving through time and history, taking the reader on an awesome journey.
History and fiction blend well together in this book; we are walked through the late 1700's, the Civil War, the Depression, love, family life, new people in town, despair, marriages, affairs, ghosts, hardships, the struggles and victories of every day life, etc; even Johnny Appleseed makes an appearance.
The reference to the red garden -- which seems to bind together this little town -- is a garden where everything grows red -- green beans, lilac bushes, cucumbers, and so on. Is this a magical piece of property?
I literally flew through the pages of this book. Hoffman has always been a favorite author of mine although her past few books were a bit of a disappointment.Read more ›
Hoffman begins her series of stories about town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, with the town's original settlers in 1750. Most prominent among them is a true frontier woman--Hallie Brady. Hallie, you see, saves the original settlers from starvation during their first winter, when the menfolk weren't quite up to the task! It is in this first story that the long-running theme of bears and the red garden begins.
The book's title refers to the garden from which it is said only red things grow. There is a history to this garden, of course; a sad one which involves both Hallie and bears...or rather one particular bear whom she befriended that first hard winter. Through hundreds of years and generations descending from those first settlers, Hoffman tells the story of this area, these people and this garden. I think my favorite story is from 1956, called The Monster of Blackwell. A very Beauty and the Beast kind of story--sad but also tender and beautiful.
The writing here is splendid for the most part, though I found the book's last two stories a terrible disappointment--an ending not befitting this lovely book in my opinion. Hoffman does a superb job in describing the environs. I could see it in my mind as I read--always my favorite kind of storytelling. Her way with words is just joyous to read. A few excerpts:
"There were little frogs in the puddles and white butterflies
with green specks on paper-thin wings circling the purple
thistle. The sun was like honey, falling in splashes.Read more ›
While the book description talks about a "mysterious garden" that is the "center of everyone's life", I found that the town and the people within it seemed to be more the focal point. In fact, the garden is not mentioned much and really only seems to take center stage in a couple of the stories. Otherwise, while there were some connecting elements, it also felt like I was missing something in the reading.
As I have never read any of Hoffman's books before, I can't say with any degree of knowledge whether this is common in her books or whether her regular readers would enjoy this. What I can say is that I feel a bit let down by the experience. The writing itself was beautiful, and I enjoyed the glimpse into the lessons learned and lives moved during the stories, but I felt like I lost some momentum each time I tried to remember whose daughter/son/brother/sister the current main character was. Probably not a book I will ever revisit.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am an avid reader and have to say this is was one of the most difficult to follow books I have ever read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by C. Busleta
The Red Garden is a history of the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, from the first residents to the present. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Joelle Taylor
This novel is not nearly as compelling as others of hers I have read. It is a chronology of residents of a Massachusetts town, but it is more like a collection of short stories. Read morePublished 1 month ago by JMB
A well written journey through time about the founding and development of a small Massachusetts town, and after decades, how the characters were connected. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
gives a history of an area over centuries. interesting but not fascinatingPublished 1 month ago by Barry H. Ginsberg
Interesting read. Dark, depressing, but captivating. I purchased this on audio book (read by Nancy Travis from Last Man Standing). Read morePublished 1 month ago by RoseGarden