Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

The Red Garden (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Alice Hoffman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7635612,153 (3.71)64
Title:The Red Garden
Authors:Alice Hoffman
Tags:Massachusetts, Magical Realism, Folklore, Small Town, Short Stories, Read 2012

Work details

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman (2011)




Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 64 mentions

English (55)  Finnish (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
Interesting concept -- one town, 300 years. Each chapter is a short story about the town and a family member of one of the four founding families. The challenge with the book is attempting to keep track of the characters, and how they're connected. (I actually had to make a chart - and even that didn't help much.) Some stories were interesting character studies, others just seemed out of place, and did little to add to the overall journey.

In my opinion, the last story was one too many -- the book felt "finished" with the second to last chapter. But all in all, something worth keeping on the bedside table for those nights when you can't sleep, or need a "curl up and read" on a rainy day book.
  Rigfield | Sep 27, 2014 |
Words just seem to flow from Alice Hoffman, drawing characters in spare delicate prose, at the same time telling the brutal truth. She is a poet, a story teller, and a truth teller. ( )
  sdunford | Jun 27, 2014 |
I enjoyed this. The short story format made for an easy read without too much to follow. And I like that each story was a new generation of town residents with ties to all the stories that preceded. There were also very clear central themes that trailed along through each person's life. ( )
  AAM_mommy | Jun 2, 2014 |
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman; shorts; (5*)

Alice Hoffman, my favorite contemporary author, is a quiet sort of writer, not known for showy prose, whirlwind plots, or doorstop blockbusters. However what she does she does very well. She creates memorable images and conveys moments of emotional intensity using spare prose and enviable stylistic restraint. In a single sentence, she can create a world or destroy it utterly. The simplicity of her prose belies its emotional power which often sneaks up on her audience unaware as they read her novels. For it turns out that in addition to being a talented observer and a gifted stylist Hoffman is a masterful storyteller.

This is especially true The Red Garden which is a collection of linked short stories that tell the history of fictional Blackwell, Massachusetts from its founding in 1750 to the late 20th century. This is a very small town which causes the same handful of surnames to surface from story to story and that the same handful of tall tales, gossip and legends persists from generation to generation. Careful readers will see how these myths grow out of the history of the community and how people's stories shape place as much as geography or historical events do.

Blackwell was known in its earliest years as Bearsville due to the large population of bears dotting nearby Hightop Mountain. The opening story about the earliest settlers' salvation by a young woman named Hallie Brady sums up many of the novel's themes and motifs; a plucky but melancholy young woman who longs for love and finds it only in the most surprising places, an intense but uneasy relationship between humans and the natural environment, an undercurrent of magic and mystery, a legacy of loss and sorrow. These themes rise again and again, taking on the force of myth as they repeat themselves through the generations.

Alice Hoffman is often known as a magic realist and The Red Garden is no exception. Ghosts, whether real or imaginary, surface again and again, their stories rooted in actual history, their recurrence a reminder that stories outlive their tellers. Hoffman relies at times on familiar archetypes such as the story of the eel wife but in a way that works perfectly with the very particular western Massachusetts environment she has created. And then there's the red garden of the novel's title, where the soil is red as blood and everything that's planted there also grows blood red, a symbol of the uncomfortable but inevitable intertwining of nature and culture, of love and loss.

The emotional level of The Red Garden can sneak up on you as the author conveys awful incidents, intense passions and haunting images in the simplest, most matter of fact prose. But this seeming simplicity, this careful restraint, also highlights the truths she conveys and the wonders that inhabit each page of her marvelous stories. "A story can still entrance people even while the world is falling apart," writes Hoffman. Blackwell seems at times a town outside of history even when history arrives, as it does from time to time, on these people's doorsteps. Their stories, however, timeless yet timely, will entrance readers from all times and places.

Alice Hoffman's works always entrance me. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Mar 25, 2014 |
Another great book by Alice Hoffman. I love how she writes. No one does magical realism like she does. This reminded me of Blackbird House, lots of similarities but I don't mind. ( )
  bookmagic | Mar 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Finnish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
In memory of Albert J. Guerard, the great critic, writer, and teacher, who in his fifty years at Harvard and Stanford universities changed the voice of American fiction and also changed my life
First words
The town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, changed its name in 1786.
He felt...as if the cells of his body had expanded to include fir trees, foxes, streams of green water. (p. 222)
Anyone else might have guessed the garden she planted would be white, but Charles had seen it all exactly as she'd crafted it before he went away, the flash of scarlet, the trail of blood, the inside story of who she was. (p.66)
"I intend to remind her that she's alive." (p.38)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in its history and in our own lives.
In exquisite prose, Hoffman offers a transforming glimpse of small-town America, presenting us with some three hundred years of passion, dark secrets, loyalty, and redemption in a web of tales where characters' lives are intertwined by fate and by their own actions.
From the town's founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City with only his dog for company, the characters in The Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives.
At the center of everyone’s life is a mysterious garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look.
Beautifully crafted, shimmering with magic, The Red Garden is as unforgettable as it is moving.
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

A young wounded civil war solider is saved by a passionate neighbor, a woman meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet falls in love with a blind man, and a mysterious traveler comes to town in the year when summer never arrives. At the center of everyone's life is a mysterious garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
418 wanted
1 pay2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.71)
0.5 1
1 4
2 18
2.5 6
3 57
3.5 30
4 86
4.5 11
5 50


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 93,365,232 books! | Top bar: Always visible