Review: Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
Published March 29th 2005 by Ballantine Books
Blackbird House is a collection of twelve short stories, all taking place in or around an old farm house at Cape Cod. The stories are barely connected, except for some recurring characters.
Alice Hoffman has been on my TBR for a while, and I found an extremely cheap copy of Blackbird House at a sale. I’m not sure this is the best book to start with of hers, and whether Blackbird House is representative of her other books. Although Ms Hoffman’s imagination is great, the stories themselves left me rather cold.
The red line throughout them is time and the place. The first story takes place about two hundred years ago (if I remember correctly) and the last one present day. There doesn’t seem to be a recurring theme except a broad notion of “love”.
There were a few stories that I enjoyed, but plenty more that I just didn’t understand. The twist or climax just completely went past me, and when the chapter ended I was left leafing back trying to see what I had missed. The stories are much tell, very little show, and just don’t seem meaty enough for me. This is a common theme for me with short stories, and the ones in Blackbird House didn’t seem to be any different. It was okay and entertaining for the two hours it took me to finish, but I don’t think I’ll ever open the book again.
With “incantatory prose” that “sweeps over the reader like a dream,” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Hoffman follows her celebrated bestseller The Probable Future, with an evocative work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years.
In a rare and gorgeous departure, beloved novelist Alice Hoffman weaves a web of tales, all set in Blackbird House. This small farm on the outer reaches of Cape Cod is a place that is as bewitching and alive as the characters we meet: Violet, a brilliant girl who is in love with books and with a man destined to betray her; Lysander Wynn, attacked by a halibut as big as a horse, certain that his life is ruined until a boarder wearing red boots
arrives to change everything; Maya Cooper, who does not understand the true meaning of the love between her mother and father until it is nearly too late. From the time of the British occupation of Massachusetts to our own modern world, family after family’s lives are inexorably changed, not only by the people they love but by the lives they lead inside Blackbird House.
These interconnected narratives are as intelligent as they are haunting, as luminous as they are unusual. Inside Blackbird House more than a dozen men and women learn how love transforms us and how it is the one lasting element in our lives. The past both dissipates and remains contained inside the rooms of Blackbird House, where there are terrible secrets, inspired beauty, and, above all else, a spirit of coming home.
- Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (3 Stars)
- Review: Room by Emma Donoghue (4 Stars)
- Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (2.5 Stars)
- Review: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough (3.5 Stars)