The River King

by Alice Hoffman | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0425179672 Global Overview for this book
Registered by calvarez4 of Oakland, California USA on 10/19/2004
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
9 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by calvarez4 from Oakland, California USA on Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Purchased at a local used book store, since I enjoyed "The Blue Diary" by Alice Hoffman...which I read from jenvince's Bookring!

A description of "The River King," from

There are two things any reader can count on when coming to Alice Hoffman: her prose and a remarkable empathy for those who live on the fringes of society. In her 13th novel, the author turns both to good account. Set in a tony private school located in a small New England town, The River King traces an intricate weave of intersecting lives over the course of a year. The Haddan School, founded in 1858, has long been the scene of tragedy and wonder: during its first year a tremendous storm flooded the grounds, and more than a century later "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." Then there are the glorious roses planted by Annie Howe, a villager who married the headmaster and later hanged herself; these flowers have an unusual effect on sensitive girls. "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."
A cogent warning indeed, for as in all of Hoffman's novels, the question of whom one chooses to love and who loves in return is the crux of the matter. The River King revolves around triangles. First there is Betsy Chase, a young photography teacher at the Haddan School who has gotten herself engaged--almost accidentally--to a fellow faculty member, even as she is inexorably drawn to Abel Grey, a town policeman. Then there are Carlin Leander, a scholarship student, and her best friend, Gus Pierce. While Carlin is able to fit in, even attracting the interest of the most popular boy on campus, Gus is a defiant outcast, a tall skinny kid in a long black overcoat "who viewed his own life as a prison sentence and experienced his existence much as a condemned man might." Carlin's romance with the charismatic, cruel Harry McKenna creates a rupture between her and Gus, and fuels a mean-spirited practical joke with horrific consequences. In the aftermath of tragedy, each character's heart, conscience, and courage is tested in unexpected ways.

Hoffman spins her web of love and heartbreak and transcendence with a sure hand, and in the process creates characters so palpably human in all their petty flaws and small instances of heroism that one almost expects them to step out of the book and into the room. Indeed, if there is a flaw in The River King, it is that Alice Hoffman doesn't always trust the magic inherent in her characters, relying a little too heavily at times on somewhat precious invocations of the otherworldly. But this is a minor defect in an otherwise satisfying novel, one that will keep the reader spellbound by its emotional complexity and compelling story.

Will be offering as a bookring :)

Journal Entry 2 by calvarez4 at on Monday, November 29, 2004
Released on Monday, November 29, 2004 at about 3:00:00 PM BX time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada) at Controlled Release in Long Beach, California Controlled Releases.


It's time to start the bookring! Please follow this simple guide, and the bookring should run smoothly:

1. Make a journal entry when you get it
2. Make a 2nd journal entry after you've read it (within a month!!)
3. PM the next person on the list and request their address
4. Mail it!

List of participants (in mailing order):

BlueAmazon (CA)
Butternut (MA)
chambejd (MA)
time-traveler (NY)
Judester (NY) (removed by request)
Mamikaem (MO)
AceofHearts (ON)
Mytilus (UK)
New participants are still being added, so this list is not yet complete.
...and back to me!

Mailing to BlueAmazon, to start this book's journey.

Journal Entry 3 by BlueAmazon from Gaithersburg, Maryland USA on Saturday, December 04, 2004
arrived yesterday, I'm about halfway through it, it's a great read for today's crummy SoCal winter, and reminds me of my Massachusetts days...

Journal Entry 4 by BlueAmazon from Gaithersburg, Maryland USA on Sunday, December 05, 2004
Was enchanted with this story most of the way through, and I loved the otherworldly aspects of it, of love and hate lasting beyond the grave. However, the last page made no sense to me, and I was disappointed in the resolution, or lack thereof.

The story, set in a MA boarding school, reminded me so much of my college experience in Northampton, MA, and the stories I heard from friends who came to Smith from elite boarding schools.

On 12/4/04 PMd the next person in line. waiting to hear from Butternut to pass it on.

Journal Entry 5 by BlueAmazon from Gaithersburg, Maryland USA on Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Off to Butternut today! what a good book, thanks calvarez!

Journal Entry 6 by butternut from South Hadley, Massachusetts USA on Monday, December 20, 2004
I received this a few days ago. It will be the next book I read.

Journal Entry 7 by butternut from South Hadley, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, December 28, 2004
I finished the book this weekend. It was interesting enough that I kept reading until the end but I am not sure that I really enjoyed it. I really like tidy endings and this just didn't have one.

Thank you for sharing the book!

I will be sending this off as soon as I get an address for chambejd.

Journal Entry 8 by chambejd from Millbury, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, January 18, 2005
I received this in the mail today. Thanks for sharing this book!

Journal Entry 9 by chambejd from Millbury, Massachusetts USA on Friday, January 28, 2005
I have to agree with BlueAmazon and Butternut about wanting a tidy ending. I enjoyed this book more as it went along, but was disappointed in the way the book left things. I also felt like it was hard to become attached to any of the characters.

Thanks for sharing this book. It was put in the mail today to time-traveler.

Journal Entry 10 by wingtime-travelerwing from Westchester, New York USA on Thursday, February 03, 2005
Received as part of a bookring. It'll be the next book I read. I do love reading Alice Hoffman's books ~ thanks for offering this as a ring!

Journal Entry 11 by wingtime-travelerwing from Westchester, New York USA on Tuesday, February 15, 2005
I just finished reading this, and I loved it. Alice Hoffman's characters are so unique, and her writing style with all the "mystical realism" hooks me every time. What I love about her books is how superstitious the characters are. I loved this: "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." And this one: "On the night (blank) died, Carlin had dreamed of broken eggs, always a portent of disaster." These passages are sooooo typical of her writing, I could read that and nothing else and know that Alice Hoffman had written it.

Good point about the lack of a tidy ending expressed by other journalers. It's what made me give the book an 8 rather than a 9. If you ever want to try another Alice Hoffman book, read The Probable Future. It was fantastic.

Thank you for starting this ring, calvarez4, I don't know if I would have ever gotten around to reading it if you hadn't.

Sent to Mamikaem in MO, via media mail, on 2/14/05.

Journal Entry 12 by Mamikaem from Maryland Heights, Missouri USA on Saturday, February 19, 2005
Received this in the mail yesterday and began reading it this morning. I've become a fan of Alice Hoffman's books so I'm really looking forward to this!

Journal Entry 13 by Mamikaem from Maryland Heights, Missouri USA on Wednesday, March 16, 2005
I really enjoyed this book although it was a little hard to get into. I wish the characters would have been a little more developed. I imagined Carlin to be older than she was because of her level of maturity. I wondered what made her that way? Also Betsy was a hard one to figure out. Some of her actions I didn't quite understand. I wish better justice would have been served to those who murdered (blank). Overall, I would recommend this book to others. I just wasn't ready for it to end the way it did!

Mailing off to AceofHearts in the morning.

03/29/05 - My apologies--I've been working 70-hour weeks so I'm just now going to the post office to mail this this morning! Sorry for the delay.

Journal Entry 14 by wingAceofHeartswing from Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, April 06, 2005
rec'd today

Journal Entry 15 by wingAceofHeartswing from Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Overall I enjoyed the book. The characters were just that, characters. I agree with everyone else that the ending was too uncertain. I did not like how justice was served but that's life. I loved the 'other worldliness' to the book

Journal Entry 16 by wingAceofHeartswing from Mississauga, Ontario Canada on Sunday, July 03, 2005
mailed today

Journal Entry 17 by Mytilus from Plymouth, Devon United Kingdom on Wednesday, July 27, 2005
This arrived in the post this morning, cheering me up no end on this remarkably soggy day in Plymouth. I'll be starting this tonight.

Thank you!

Journal Entry 18 by Mytilus from Plymouth, Devon United Kingdom on Sunday, July 31, 2005
Marvellous, enchanting, other-wordly, special. I don't believe that I've read any other Hoffman books to date, which is a real shame if her other works are even a fraction as good as The River King.

Thank you for including me in this ring!

Journal Entry 19 by calvarez4 from Oakland, California USA on Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I am happy to report that this book has found its way home! Thank you to everyone who participated in this successful ring! I will have the book traveling again very soon (as soon as I get a chance to read it!) :)

Journal Entry 20 by calvarez4 from Oakland, California USA on Thursday, September 15, 2005
I hadn't read this book before sending it out on its journeys, but I finally sat down to it this week, and all of the previous readers of the book were absolutely correct: the book is PHENOMENAL! But I disagree with past readers in one small way - I think the end was a bit too tidy for me :) I felt that, around page 300, Hoffman realized that it was time to start writing an ending, and so the plot started coming to a close a bit abruptly. But my criticism is small, because I simply loved the book.

Journal Entry 21 by calvarez4 at on Thursday, September 15, 2005

Released 13 yrs ago (9/15/2005 UTC) at



I am a bit sad to see this one go! The book was accepted by a member of, and so it is now traveling her way. New readers, I hope you love it!

Journal Entry 22 by OSO-189982 on Monday, September 19, 2005
Rec'd today in the mail through And whaddya turns out it's a BC book, too. :-)
It's joining a rather large TBR pile, but there will be a future journal entry!

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