Book Review: BLACKBIRD HOUSE by Alice Hoffman



Publisher: Ballantine Books
Released: March 29, 2005
Source: Borrowed from the library

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.

From the writer Time has said tells “truths powerful enough to break a reader’s heart” comes a glorious travelogue through time and fate, through loss and love and survival. Welcome to Blackbird House.


BLACKBIRD HOUSE is another memorable book from Alice Hoffman, one that would appeal to a lover of American historical fiction and magical realism, like me. The book is a collection of 12 interconnected short stories set on the same remote farm on Cape Cod. The imaginative stories span 200 years, beginning at the British blockade of the cape during the War of 1812 through present day, and their common denominator is Blackbird House.

The first story, “The Edge of the World,” sets the mysterious atmosphere of the book, when an eerie bird takes up residence at the farm. The bird makes an appearance throughout the next two centuries, as the house’s occupants experience love, loneliness, and loss, heartbreak and hope.

I enjoyed all of the stories, but there were a few that really stood out: “The Conjurer’s Handbook,” about a WWII soldier who falls in love with a Jewish guide at a prison camp; “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” about love at first sight and sibling rivalry; and “Insulting the Angels,” about a man willing to change the world for a complete stranger.

I love Alice Hoffman’s lyrical writing style, and her tragic and triumphant characters. I just need to read a few lines of the first page, and I’m hooked. I would also recommend Ms. Hoffman’s THE RED GARDEN, which is another collection of short stories, only they’re connected by a town instead of one house. Fantastic reading!

Rating: 4 Stars