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A beautiful, moving masterpiece,
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This review is from: The River King (Paperback)I'm quite new to the world of Alice Hoffman - my first one was the impressive The Ice Queen - and I'm slowly working my way through her back catalogue. The River King is the third one I've read, and it's utterly superb.
What I love about this is what I love about all her novels - the wry, poetic prose style, the brilliant characters, the literary sensibility married to a solid, meaty plot - and most of all, the generous compassion she has for all these flawed, unhappy people. Hoffman, I sense, believes in people, that they are fundamentally good (With one or two exceptions) and that makes a refreshing change from much of modern fiction.
The River King is a literary novel with the plot motor of a murder-mystery. A bullied student at the snobbish, privileged Haddan School is found dead, floating in the nearby river, and the story then investigates the lives of the student, his friends and enemies, his teachers, and that of a righteous, honest police detective who senses that the death was not suicide and who investigates mulishly, doggedly, tirelessly, even though he puts his own friendships and livelihood at risk. You'll end up wanting this guy to be your dad.
And while this goes on the story comments on so much else - loneliness, bullying, the horrible practice of "hazing", of guilt-by-proxy, of strange weather, of unreasonable parental pressure, of small, poor lives given a new chance, of the resentment of townsfolk for the rich students of the posh school across the road, of wrong choices, and above all of love, and redemption, and hope.
And a one-eyed cat, and some very surly swans.