126. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

Pages: 325
Ages: 18+
Finished: Jul. 15 2009
First Published: Jun. 02 '09
Genre: magical realism
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

Once a year there was a knock at the door.

Reason for Reading: I've become a big fan of magical realism over the last year or so and Alice Hoffman was an author on my list, so I figured why not start with her new book. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Comments: Well, I hardly know where to start with this book. What is this book about? It's the story of three sisters who live in a fantasy world of their own creation. Two of them hold a dark secret, but one of them holds the darkest secret of all. It's a story of a mother's loves as she tries to raise her daughters single handedly. The girls grow up, let go of their fantasy world (though parts will never leave them) and face the pain of real life. This is a story of the fantastical, a family saga, a harsh, dark realism and ultimate redemption.

I'll start by saying I really, really enjoyed this book. But I also have to say there were parts when I just didn't get it. Each chapter starts with a few paragraphs of an italicized story from the fantasy world, at least that's what I thought at the beginning, but by the end I had no idea what they were about or what their purpose served. The first half of the book when the girls are young and living in the fantasy world is beautiful. The language and atmosphere is so fairy tale-like. It's pure delight to read but even at this stage glimpses of the dark secret are seen and the power of even the smallest glimpse of this evil into such serene surroundings is shiver-inducing. As events unfold the author throws a stunning shock at the reader and the atmosphere becomes more realistic, heavier and darker.

The characters are marvelous. I just loved every single one of them, even the ones that I didn't particularly like as people. They were just so well written I could visualize and hear each one of them. Truly brilliant characterization! The writing as a whole is beautiful, the family saga is compelling and heart-wrenching while the fantasy elements are always present whether in full force or just as tiny flickers. It's still a book I have to give some thought to, though. This has given me a taste for Alice Hoffman and I plan on reading her again.

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  1. This book intrigued me because of its title. I haven't read anything by her either, but I am not a fan of magical realism. May have to hunt for another book!

    Great review!

  2. As far as I know, magical realism is what Alice Hoffman is known for. I know she's a big name in the genre. But I don't know if she writes straight realism or not, this being my first book. LOL

  3. I've read only one Hoffman book, Skylight Confessions, and it was just okay for me. Hoffman is a talented writer, so I plan on giving her another try at some point. Thanks for the review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  4. One of my favourite Hoffman's is 'The Ice Queen'. When you go back to reading books other than ARCs, you might want to give that one a try.

    I have read several Hoffman over the years and they cover a wide range of topics. Not all of them have magical realism, but a lot do. I actually just read this book, so I will be reviewing it soon! I agree with a lot of what you said.

  5. I have read and enjoyed a couple of her books and will definiletly be getting this one when it is out in paperback. I hope you read more by her.

  6. Anna, I haven't heard of that one. I've read mixed reviews of most of her books.

    Kailana - Looks like it will be nearer the end of the year, but 2010 for sure I'll be back to reading old books as well! I'm already planning the focus of my 2010 reading LOL!

    K & Rhinoa - I own 2 books by her: Seventh Heaven and Turtle Moon, either of them any good?

  7. I've really enjoyed the two books by Alice Hoffman I read. I don't always "get" magical realism, but with her books, I have had much better luck. I am glad you enjoyed this one, Nicola.

  8. Okay, I just bought this book. Hmm ... I wonder if I'll like it. I like Hoffman, so I'm hopeful :) Thanks for the review!


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