Hooray, hooray it’s finally time for a book from my favourite author! Alice Hoffman never fails me.

This week’s choice was sent to me from my favourite Canadian because she’s a gem and she knows how much I adore everything Hoffman writes. So, this book is extra special – sent by my story sister (geddit).

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I love written dedications in books more than anything

The story follows a family of women (as is typical of Hoffman’s writing) with a strong focus on Elv (Elisabeth) who is on a dangerous, self-destructive path due to childhood trauma. Elv’s story is a wonderful metaphor for mental illness and the damage which sexual abuse can cause even in later life. Elv feels she cannot trust anyone, not even her beloved younger sisters after she is tricked into attending an institution for troubled youths. I think part of the tension between the sisters comes from this secret: Elv saved Claire from being abused, Elv was abused herself instead. Claire waits for Elv and they go home together, never telling anyone about the man who abused Elv. The don’t tell Meg, causing a rift to build between the sisters. Also, though Elv is happy she has saved Claire, she must feel some resentment towards her youngest sister, it would be impossible to experience something like that and not resent the simpler lives of those closest to you.

The story unfolds with a number of tragedies, which again is a benchmark of Hoffman’s writing – don’t expect to finish this novel with dry eyes.

As usual, Hoffman weaves magical realism and intricate imagery into her story making for an absolutely gorgeous read. I did try to narrow it down, I really did… Here are some of my favourite quotes:

SS 1
‘The sunlight was orange. They had to remember that. … They could cut up pears and write down all the colours of the light … and forget about the rest of the world.’
Ss7
‘This wasn’t his house or his family or his dog, but it was his sorrow.’
SS6
‘Pete wondered if the endings of things gathered in the corners of a room, hanging down like a spider’s web, waiting.’
SS5
‘… the eggs he’d bought at the market had frozen in their shells. The world felt enchanted. Perhaps in this snowstorm they would sleep for a hundred years and wake consoled, young again.’
SS4
‘It was easy for them to spot heartbreak from a third-floor window, despite their bad eyesight and the darkness of the street.’
SS3
‘The metal trash can was full of tendrils and leaves, and turning yellow in the dark. This is the way her garden grew now.’
SS2
‘… they all sat together holding hands, and anyone who passed by would have thought they were happy.’
ss9
‘This was part of the interview. People did background checks and extensive questionnaires, but you could tell a great deal more about someone from the way they readied a pot of tea.’
SS11
‘In Natalia’s opinion, that was the way love was, invisible, there whether or not you wanted to see it or admit to it.’
SS13
‘He was nothing but trouble back then. But a boy who is trouble is something entirely different as a man.’
SS12
‘They had known each other years ago, when they were much younger, and because of this they saw each other as they had been then. … Flustered, they laughed to see each other this way.’
SS10
‘It was a different them, but when she woke in the night Elv sometimes feared their old selves were sewn to their skins with black thread, like shadows.’

 

I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who loves stories about sadness, sisters, snow, home-grown tomatoes, Paris, adopted horses/cats/dogs and mysterious lands deep below ground. I’m not sure if this has bumped Practical Magic out of the top spot, probably not, but if I’m even questioning this then you can trust me when I say I love this book. I hope you will too!

MJ x

 

Don’t forget you can follow me on twitter and instagram if you’re missing me between blog posts.

Posted by:MJ

20, studying at UEA in Norwich

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