The River King

The River King

by Alice Hoffman

Paperback(Reissue)

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Overview

A story about a small town's surface appearance and the truths submerged below from the New York Times bestselling author of The Rules of Magic.

People tend to stay in their place in the town of Haddan. The students at the prestigious prep school don't mix with locals; even within the school, hierarchy rules as freshman and faculty members find out where they fit in and what is expected from them. But there are minor collisions happening everywhere: An awkward boy, the son of a teacher, is flirting with a pretty classmate, the daughter of a convenience-store cashier. A photographer in plastic flip-flops and an overflowing backpack is about to marry a staid, ambitious historian. And when a body is found in the river behind the school, a local policeman named Abey Grey will walk into this enclosed world and upset it entirely...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425179673
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/10/2001
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 245,395
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1160L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, Practical MagicThe Marriage of OppositesThe Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on EarthThe Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston.

Hometown:

Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

March 16, 1952

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

Read an Excerpt

The Haddan School was built in 1858 on the sloping banks of the Haddan River, a muddy and precarious location that had proven disastrous from the start. That very first year, when the whole town smelled of cedar shavings, there was a storm of enormous proportions, with winds so strong that dozens of fish were drawn up from the reedy shallows, then lifted above the village in a shining cloud of scales. Torrents of water fell from the sky, and by morning the river had overflowed, leaving the school’s freshly painted white clapboard buildings adrift in a murky sea of duckweed and algae.

For weeks, students were ferried to classes in rowboats; catfish swam through flooded perennial gardens, observing the disaster with cool, glassy eyes. Every evening, at twilight, the school cook balanced on a second-story window ledge, then cast out his rod to catch dozens of silver trout, a species found only in the currents of the Haddan River, a sweet, fleshy variety that was especially delectable when fried with shallots and oil. After the flood subsided, two inches of thick, black silt covered the carpets in the dormitories; at the headmaster’s house, mosquitoes began to hatch in sinks and commodes. The delightful watery vistas of the site, a landscape abundant with willows and water lotus, had seduced the foolish trustees into building much too close to the river, an architectural mistake that has never been rectified. To this day, frogs can be found in the plumbing; linens and clothes stored in closets have a distinctly weedy odor, as if each article had been washed in river water and never thoroughly dried.

After the flood, houses in town had to be refloored and re-roofed; public buildings were torn down, then refashioned from cellar to ceiling. Whole chimneys floated down Main Street, with some of them still issuing forth smoke. Main Street itself had become a river, with waters more than six feet deep. Iron fences were loosened and ripped from the earth, leaving metal posts in the shape of arrows adrift. Horses drowned; mules floated for miles and when rescued, refused to eat anything but wild celery and duckweed. Poison sumac was uprooted and deposited in vegetable bins, only to be mistakenly cooked along with the carrots and cabbages, a recipe that led to several untimely deaths. Bobcats showed up on back porches, mewing and desperate for milk; several were found beside babies in their cradles, sucking from bottles and purring as though they were house cats let in through front doors.

At that time, the rich fields circling the town of Haddan were owned by prosperous farmers who cultivated asparagus and onions and a peculiar type of yellow cabbage known for its large size and delicate fragrance. These farmers put aside their plows and watched as boys arrived from every corner of the Commonwealth and beyond to take up residence at the school, but even the wealthiest among them were unable to afford tuition for their own sons. Local boys had to make do with the dusty stacks at the library on Main Street and whatever fundamentals they might learn in their very own parlors and fields. To this day, people in Haddan retain a rustic knowledge of which they are proud. Even the children can foretell the weather; they can point to and name every constellation in the sky.

A dozen years after the Haddan School was built, a public high school was erected in the neighboring town of Hamilton, which meant a five-mile trek to classes on days when the snow was knee-deep and the weather so cold even the badgers kept to their dens. Each time a Haddan boy walked through a storm to the public school his animosity toward the Haddan School grew, a small bump on the skin of ill will ready to rupture at the slightest contact. In this way a hard bitterness was forged, and the spiteful sentiment increased every year, until there might as well have been a fence dividing those who came from the school and the residents of the village. Before long, anyone who dared to cross that line was judged to be either a martyr or a fool.

There was a time when it seemed possible for the separate worlds to be united, when Dr. George Howe, the esteemed headmaster, considered to be the finest in the Haddan School history, decided to marry Annie Jordan, the most beautiful girl in the village. Annie’s father was a well-respected man who owned a parcel of farmland out where Route 17 now runs into the interstate, and he approved of the marriage, but soon after the wedding it became apparent that Haddan would remain divided. Dr. Howe was jealous and vindictive; he turned local people away from his door. Even Annie’s family was quickly dispatched. Her father and brothers, good, simple men with mud on their boots, were struck mute the few times they came to call, as if the bone china and leather-bound books had robbed them of their tongues. Before long people in town came to resent Annie, as if she’d somehow betrayed them. If she thought she was so high and mighty, in that fine house by the river, then the girls she grew up with felt they had reason to retaliate, and on the streets they passed her by without a word. Even her own dog, a lazy hound named Sugar, ran away yelping on those rare occasions when Annie came to visit her father’s farm.

It quickly became clear that the marriage had been a horrid mistake; anyone more worldly than Annie would have known this from the start. At his very own wedding, Dr. Howe had forgotten his hat, always the sign of a man who’s bound to stray. He was the sort of person who wished to own his wife, without belonging to her in return. There were days when he spoke barely a sentence in his own home, and nights when he didn’t come in until dawn. It was loneliness that led Annie to begin her work in the gardens at Haddan, which until her arrival were neglected, ruined patches filled with ivy and nightshade, dark vines that choked out any wildflowers that might have grown in the thin soil. As it turned out, Annie’s loneliness was the school’s good fortune, for it was she who designed the brick walkways that form an hourglass and who, with the help of six strong boys, saw to the planting of the weeping beeches beneath whose branches many girls still receive their first kiss. Annie brought the original pair of swans to reside at the bend in the river behind the headmaster’s house, ill-tempered, wretched specimens rescued from a farmer in Hamilton whose wife plucked their bloody feathers for soft, plump quilts. Each evening, before supper, when the light above the river washed the air with a green haze, Annie went out with an apronful of old bread. She held the firm belief that scattering bread crumbs brought happiness, a condition she herself had not known since her wedding day.

There are those who vow that swans are unlucky, and fishermen in particular despise them, but Annie loved her pets; she could call them to her with a single cry. At the sound of her sweet voice the birds lined up as politely as gentlemen; they ate from her hands without ever once drawing blood, favoring crusts of rye bread and whole-wheat crackers. As a special treat, Annie often brought whole pies, leftovers from the dining room. In a wicker basket, she piled up apple cobbler and wild raspberry tart, which the swans gobbled down nearly whole, so that their beaks were stained crimson and their bellies took on the shapes of medicine balls.

Even those who were certain Dr. Howe had made a serious error in judgment in choosing his bride had to admire Annie’s gardens. In no time the perennial borders were thick with rosy-pink foxglove and cream-colored lilies, each of which hung like a pendant, collecting dew on its satiny petals. But it was with her roses that Annie had the best luck of all, and among the more jealous members of the Haddan garden club, founded that very year in an attempt to beautify the town, there was speculation that such good fortune was unnatural. Some people went so far as to suggest that Annie Howe sprinkled the pulverized bones of cats around the roots of her ramblers, or perhaps it was her own blood she cast about the shrubs. How else could her garden bloom in February, when all other yards were nothing more than stonewort and bare dirt? Massachusetts was known for a short growing season and its early killing frosts. Nowhere could a gardener find more unpredictable weather, be it droughts or floods or infestations of beetles, which had been known to devour entire neighborhoods full of greenery. None of these plagues ever affected Annie Howe. Under her care, even the most delicate hybrids lasted past the first frost so that in November there were still roses blooming at Haddan, although by then, the edge of each petal was often encased in a layer of ice.

Much of Annie Howe’s handiwork was destroyed the year she died, yet a few samples of the hardiest varieties remain. A visitor to campus can find sweet, aromatic Prosperity, as well as Climbing Ophelia and those delicious Egyptian Roses, which give off the scent of cloves on rainy days, ensuring that a gardener’s hands will smell sweet for hours after pruning the canes. Among all of these roses, Mrs. Howe’s prized white Polars were surely her finest. Cascades of white flowers lay dormant for a decade, to bloom and envelop the metal trellis beside the girls’ dormitory only once every ten years, as if all that time was needed to restore the roses their strength. Each September, when the new students arrived, Annie Howe’s roses had an odd effect on certain girls, the sensitive ones who had never been away from home before and were easily influenced. When such girls walked past the brittle canes in the gardens behind St. Anne’s, they felt something cold at the base of their spines, a bad case of pins and needles, as though someone were issuing a warning: Be careful who you choose to love and who loves you in return.

Most newcomers are apprised of Annie’s fate as soon as they come to Haddan. Before suitcases are unpacked and classes are chosen, they know that although the huge wedding cake of a house that serves as the girls’ dormitory is officially called Hastings House—in honor of some fellow, long forgotten, whose dull-witted daughter’s admission opened the door for female students on the strength of a huge donation—the dormitory is never referred to by that name. Among students, the house is called St. Anne’s, in honor of Annie Howe, who hanged herself from the rafters one mild evening in March, only hours before wild iris began to appear in the woods. There will always be girls who refuse to go up to the attic at St. Anne’s after hearing this story, and others, whether in search of spiritual renewal or quick thrills, who are bound to ask if they can take up residence in the room where Annie ended her life. On days when rosewater preserves are served at breakfast, with Annie’s recipe carefully followed by the kitchen staff, even the most fearless girls can become light-headed; after spooning this concoction onto their toast they need to sit with their heads between their knees and breathe deeply until their metabolisms grow steady again.

At the start of the term, when members of the faculty return to school, they are reminded not to grade on a curve and not to repeat Annie’s story. It is exactly such nonsense that gives rise to inflated grade averages and nervous breakdowns, neither of which are approved of by the Haddan School. Nevertheless, the story always slips out, and there’s nothing the administration can do to stop it. The particulars of Annie’s life are simply common knowledge among the students, as much an established part of Haddan life as the route of the warblers who always begin their migration at this time of year, lighting on shrubbery and treetops, calling to one another across the open sky.

Often, the weather is unseasonably warm at the start of the term, one last triumph of summer come to call. Roses bloom more abundantly, crickets chirp wildly, flies doze on windowsills, drowsy with sunlight and heat. Even the most serious-minded educators are known to fall asleep when Dr. Jones gives his welcoming speech. This year, many in attendance drifted off in the overheated library during this oration and several teachers secretly wished that the students would never arrive. Outside, the September air was enticingly fragrant, yellow with pollen and rich, lemony sunlight. Along the river, near the canoe shed, weeping willows rustled and dropped catkins on the muddy ground. The clear sound of slow-moving water could be heard even here in the library, perhaps because the building itself had been fashioned out of river rock, gray slabs flecked with mica that had been hauled from the banks by local boys hired for a dollar a day, laborers whose hands bled from their efforts and who cursed the Haddan School forever after, even in their sleep.

As usual, people were far more curious about those who’d been recently hired than those old, reliable colleagues they already knew. In every small community, the unknown is always most intriguing, and Haddan was no exception to this rule. Most people had been to dinner with Bob Thomas, the massive dean of students, and his pretty wife, Meg, more times than they could count; they had sat at the bar at the Haddan Inn with Duck Johnson, who coached crew and soccer and always became tearful after his third beer. The on-again, off-again romance between Lynn Vining, who taught painting, and Jack Short, the married chemistry teacher, had already been discussed and dissected. Their relationship was completely predictable, as were many of the love affairs begun at Haddan—fumbling in the teachers’ lounge, furtive embraces in idling cars, kisses exchanged in the library, breakups at the end of the term. Feuds were far more interesting, as in the case of Eric Herman—ancient history—and Helen Davis—American history and chair of the department, a woman who’d been teaching at Haddan for more than fifty years and was said to grow meaner with each passing day, as if she were a pitcher of milk set out to curdle in the noonday sun.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Graceful, beguiling, and quirky.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Rewarding…a novel not to be missed.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Set in and around an exclusive private school in fictional Haddan, Mass., bestselling author Hoffman’s latest novel flows as swiftly and limpidly as the Haddan River, the town’s mystical waterway…As ever, Hoffman mixes myth, magic and reality, addressing issues of town and gown, enchanting her readers with a many-layered morality tale and proving herself once again an inventive author with a distinctive touch.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Suspenseful and engrossing.”—Denver Rocky Mountain News

“It can be hard to find an example of good old-fashioned storytelling these days, but storytelling, refreshingly, is Alice Hoffman’s strength…The River King is full of wonderfully and satisfyingly odd twists and turns.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Reading her book is like having a dream that haunts even after we awaken.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Judy Rodel

Haunting and enjoyable. The lives of Alice Hoffman's prep school misfits reflect the life of the River Haddan-dangerous, dreamy, consoling, threatening and ultimately victorious.
— (Judy Rodel, Downtown Books, Hudson, Wisconsin)

Tammy Partsch

Wonderful. Alice Hoffman's writing, full of grace and poetry, made me lose myself in The River King.
—( Tammy Partsch, Book Clinic, Nebraska City, Nebraska)

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

The River King is a novel as compelling as it is daring, an exploration of forgiveness and hope, a wondrous tale of innocence and evil, and of the secrets we keep.

For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if by a line drawn down the center of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the village from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. But one October night the two worlds are thrust together due to an inexplicable death, and the town's divided history is revealed in all its complexity. The lives of everyone involved are unraveled: from Carlin Leander, the fifteen-year-old girl who is as loyal as she is proud, to Betsy Chase, a woman running from her own destiny; from August Pierce, a boy who unexpectedly finds courage in his darkest hour, to Abel Grey, the police officer who refuses to let unspeakable actions—both past and present—slide by without notice.

 


ABOUT ALICE HOFFMAN

Alice Hoffman's novels include Property Of, The Drowning Season, Angel Landing, White Horses, Fortune's Daughter, Illumination Night, At Risk, Seventh Heaven, Turtle Moon, Second Nature, Practical Magic, Here on Earth and Local Girls. She lives outside Boston.

Praise

"Spellbinding. Hoffman opens old wounds and inflicts new ones in this evocative mystery of innocence transgressed and evil expelled."—USA Today

"Alice Hoffman is, was, and always will be, a beautiful writer."—The Washington Post Book World

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Hoffman dedicates much of the novel to describing The Haddan School campus in detail. In what ways do the School's physical descriptions mirror actual events in the novel? Is Hoffman's description of the Chalk House foreboding for its inhabitants?
     
  • The line between past and present, living and dead, is often blurred in the story, creating a mystical, haunting atmosphere in which anything seems possible. How does Annie Howe "live on" at the Haddan School? What mystical or supernatural qualities did Annie Howe display while she was alive? Are there any ghosts in the novel, and if so, how do these ghosts from the past inform the state of things in the present?
     
  • How are Carlin Leander and August Pierce different from the other students at the Haddan School? What does each do in an effort to mask that difference? Do they succeed in this effort?
     
  • Almost every major character Carlin Leander, Abel Grey, Betsy Chase, Dr. Howe is forced at some point to deal with the death of someone close to them in The River King. Carlin believes she is still in contact with Gus Pierce after his death, while Abel Grey cannot even talk of his brother's suicide at an early age. Which do you believe is the best way to deal with such loss? In your opinion, does Gus Pierce actually visit Carlin after his death and leave her gifts, or is there another explanation for this? What was your reaction when Gus Pierce "appears" in a photograph taken after his death?
     
  • Throughout The River King, Abel Grey and Betsy Chase undergo significant character changes, both internally and externally. Discuss.
     
  • Thanks to the deceitful actions of Abel Grey, Harry McKenna gets expelled from The Haddan School and loses his admission into Dartmouth, despite the fact that he didn't actually cheat on his exam. Is this fair? Does Harry McKenna deserve a more severe punishment for his role in Gus Pierce's death?
     
  • Haddan is divided between the haves and the have-nots or, the Haddan School students and the Haddan town residents. In what ways does the symbolic distance between the two become greater over the course of the novel? In what ways does this distance become shorter?
     
  • Both Abe and Carlin Leander feel guilty for the death of someone close to them—in Abe's case, his brother Frank, and in Carlin's case, Gus Pierce. In what other ways are the two characters alike, especially by the end of the novel?
     
  • What effect does the revelation about Abe's true grandparents have on Abe? Does it help explain anything about his personality? Why might Abe be aptly dubbed "The River King"?
     
  • Death imagery abounds in the second half of the novel. The last paragraph, however, contains a more hopeful image of Carlin swimming in the river one late afternoon. This parting sequence provides a positive contrast to the mostly dark images found up to that point: "the fish had grown used to her, and they swam along beside her, all the way home." Does this suggest the possibility of a brighter future for Carlin after the tragedy of Gus's death? Why do you think Carlin decides to swim in the river every day? Why, in your opinion, does Gus stop "visiting" her?

Customer Reviews

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River King 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is interesting from the start you open to the first page. The setting is in Haddan, Massachusetts on a river, which proves not to be an ideal location for an exclusive private school. From the start the school is in a lame in the middle of nowhere town and the first year of the school there is a flooding. In The River King, death, which is a reoccurring theme in this book, is around during the entire story. When Anne Jordan hangs herself because her husband, Dr. Howe who is the headmaster at Haddan School, who neglected her except for her gardens. Gus is the intelligent and innocent guy who nobody likes, so members of his fraternity, The Magician Club, kill him. This book when describing boarding school life is very true in that there is lots of hazing, mental abuse, and cruelty against students in all forms. A few really good parts of the book are: when characters turn white roses red, being a pharmacist in Haddan, and all the relationships in Haddan. Turning white roses red may seem impossible but it is not. For example Anne Jordan does this by have blood drip all over the rose and Gus completes this impossible task putting crystals on it and misting water over it. These both have fatal ends because Anne hangs herself and Gus is murdered. One thing I disliked about the book is how the author brings new characters in the book by describing them up to the point were you have to go back to read about what was happening again. I enjoyed the book mainly because the boarding school life theme of the novel and also because of the twist with love, innocents, death, and self-blaming in the novel. This book is recommended to all especially young adults who are about to experience time away from home or boarding life. Also, The River King would be a good read for most teenagers and adults who like suspense and who did it novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must confess I felt a bit soggy by the end of this novel. The relentless watery symbolism just got to be a bit much. In addition, I thought the book could have been edited down at least 50 pages, and still have kept its excellent story line and lyrical writing style. It seemed almost as if Ms. Hoffman, once having begun a descriptive passage, didn't know when to stop. But the characterizations are excellent (especially of the elderly teacher Helen Davis) and the plot is intriguing. I did not feel justice was sufficiently meted out in the end, but other readers may disagree.
TheCrowdedLeaf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a nutshell, I loved The River King. It is the third Hoffman novel I¿ve read (previous ones are The Third Angel and The Ice Queen) and I think it¿s my favorite so far. Her narratives are so enigmatic and brooding they encompass the reader with a deep, internal sense of unease, and The River King is no exception.In Massachusetts, in the town of Hadden, there is a private high-school for the intelligent and the wealthy. Students and townspeople don¿t mix, don¿t mingle, and each side minds their own business. But when a young boy from the school is found drowned in the river, barriers are crossed and the lines dividing Hadden start to blur.Among the characters are Abel Grey, burdened by his brother¿s suicide when he was young; and Betsy Chase, chained to an impending marriage she no longer desires. There is Carlin Leander, smart and beautiful, but an outsider; and Gus Pierce, head over heels in love with Carlin and an outsider himself. A host of supporting characters lend weight to the plot, drawing everyone together. A deep, decades old suicide of one of the school¿s first residents also plays a background, as does the magical history of roses and water that Hoffman skillfully blends into the storyline. Her hints of the mysterious are gentle and persuasive; so realistic you almost wonder if they¿re magic at all.Much of the novel is told in asides, mentioning one character¿s story in reference to another. It takes a supreme talent to be able to start the reader headed in one direction, bend them toward another, but have them end up at the correct final destination. It¿s just one reason Hoffman¿s novels are so successful.The River King is dark and mysterious, it chills the reader page-by-page. If you¿re interested in reading Alice Hoffman¿s novels, I would definitely recommend The River King if you¿re in the mood for a mystery. If you¿re in the mood for one of her more contemporary novels, I point you toward The Third Angel.
hammockqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
elite school holds cocky boys and a couple of mis-fits. What happens to Gus who can't fit in and wears a long black coat.Why does Carin now wear his coat and find stones and tiny living fish in the pockets. Why is it always wet around her;. Do the detective Gus and photog. Betsy get together? Creative characters and suspense to the end.
rebeccaslibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the way nature and people in the school community and small town interacted. The animals, weather, and plants responded to human emotions, and in return, those aspects of nature influenced human thought and feeling as well. Nice interplay.The language was beautiful, rich, and flowing. The characters were complicated and unpredictable in believable ways. The New England small town and private school setting was a perfect microcosm of human experience. Great book! May 20, 2010
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the 1st one of hers I haven't absolutely loved. But I still read every thing by her that I can get my hands on. I love her!~!
kbig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely lovely book about teenage love. Nice magical realism touches.
madamejeanie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Class structure and separation were very clear concepts to the people of Haddan, Massachusetts. The people on the West side of town were there to serve and cater to the people on the East side, and even they weren't "fine" enough to have their children attend the exclusive prep school whose campus was on the far edge of town by the river. The faculty and students at the Haddan School didn't belong in town and the townsfolk certainly didn't belong on campus. But one year, two students arrived at Haddan School who probably didn't really belong anyplace. Carlin Leander was a daughter of a convenience store cashier from Florida, there on a swimming scholarship, and Augustus Smith was an awkward boy with long, greasy hair and a bad attitude from New York who was there as the last best hope of his exasperated parents. Yet, even as the two misfits drew close to each other, more people began stepping around barriers that had held Haddan together for decades, causing class collisions that sent quiet little shockwaves through the populace. And when the body of a student at Haddan School is found floating face down in the river, a local policeman with a troubled past walks into that enclosed world of academia and upsets it completely.Like all of Hoffman's books, this one is filled with lyrical magic and several divergent plotlines, but the story unfolds layer by layer, and the wisps of the tale, past intermingling with present, reality blending with magic, come together in a way only possible by a master storyteller. A terrific story lyrically told.
cerievans1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Carlin is a pale, too-beautiful, cynical Floridian 14 year old who has won a Scholarship to a boarding school in a small town in Massachussetts. It is made clear that Carlin is bright though she has won her scholarship on the back of her swimming prowess. Carlin is on her way to the small town of Haddan by train when she meets and gets to know Gus Pierce. Gus carries an air of sorrow around with him, obvious to everyone who meets him. Gus is also on his way to Haddan school having been suspended from another school. Gus smokes, he has questionable personal hygiene, he is scruffy, funny and immediately clicks with Carlin. Carlin's first observation is that Gus stinks. Gus knows he is the person who always steps into a puddle.Although both Carlin and Gus are outsiders when they arrive at the tumbledown, damp, riverside Haddan School, they deal with school life in different ways. Carlin in her distant, indifferent way attracts the attention of the senior handsome villain of the novel, Harry McKenna, who, perhaps tired of having every girl in the school throw themselves at his feet, sees getting Carlin as a challenge. Harry briefly woos Carlin, they have a brief fling which causes a rift between Carlin and Gus.As one of the new boarders of the all boys Chalk House, Gus is hounded by his seniors including Harry McKenna. Gus knows he has courage and thinks he is immune to their cruelty. One day, Gus is found dead in the river and local policeman, Abe takes it upon himself to find out the truth of his death, not believing that Gus committed suicide.This is a haunting story about just how cruel people can be. I enjoyed the descriptions of small town life in Hadden, the mysteriousness and magic of the river, and the side stories of relationships between Abe and photographer Betsy, the black cat, and between Carlin and the cranky old maths teacher, Helen Davies, and the deteriorating friendship between Abe and Joey.The book is full of beautiful lines mostly describing the seasons and the river. For example,"In the pearly skies of March, there were countless sorrows in New England. The world had closed down for so long it seemed the ice would never melt. The very lack of colour could leave a person despondent. After a while the black bark of trees in a rainstorm brought on waves of melancholy. A flock of geese soaring across the pale sky could cause a person to weep...."Most of all I liked the character of Carlin, deciding to come back to Haddan to pursue her education despite all that happened over the first school term.Four stars.
artistlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haddon Prep is a private school with, sadly, typical teenagers. Haddon Town is a washed-up forgotten place with lonely people. What the high school kids and long-time towners quickly learn is how much alike they really are.You can't say much about this book without giving away the plot, but for a story with so many developed characters it's amazing how you come away with the feeling of new friends. Even dead ones. Hoffman proves once again that she is one of our greatest writers today.
samsheep on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book about a mysterious death at a private school in a small town. Very satisfying read with some beautiful passages. Definitely going to try some more Alice Hoffman after reading this.
EvenInk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very well written and thoroughly depressing book.
cataylor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At a small New England boarding school, the intertwining of two students lives, shadows of the past unhappiness of the headmaster's wife, and the terrifying events of the present make for a gripping read. You won't be able to put it down.
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved Hoffman's "Ice Queen," and looked forward to reading this book. I was so disappointed that I did something I almost never do -- I stopped reading it about halfway through.
bastet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful, and ultimately sad, book that traces the horrors that can happen with hazing a private schools. Not like Hoffman's usual books, and extremely moving.
cindyloumn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Her books are usually dark and strange, with ghosts or magic. This had all that. Sort of predictable. Could have been much better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a good book. Its just that in some parts the author layers it with details. And the details that keep you wanting more. But hey! Its just my opinion and im not even finished with it yet. Msybe youll like it. Or maybe ill like it in the end. The characters are kinda interesting. :/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing story about right from wrong. With a hint of magic a handfull of love and a lot of mystery its a story that can draw a lot of people in with its raw emotion. A lot of things come to light by the end of this book. Overall a great story with a strong message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To the person who said otherwise, i believe you are jealous.
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