Top positive review
18 April 2012
This novel tells the story of Ridley Sorrel Stone, nicknamed Bit - "the littlest bit of a hippie ever made!" when he is the first baby born to a group of travelling hippies, who finally establish a commune centred around the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Bit is the son of Abe and Hannah and the group is led by the charismatic musician Handy. This is the time of Vietnam and what begins as a few dozen idealists grows and establishes itself. To my mind, the parts set during Bit's childhood are the most fascinating, because, of course, people being human nothing can remain as idealistic as it sounds. Abe challenges Handy's authority, Hannah suffers depression, there is hunger, cold, lack of housing, drugs, hardship and hard work. However, this extreme isolation is not always seen as negative. Although the author shows the rise and downfall of Arcadia, it is obvious that Bit does not see the experience as something to run from and he carries many of the dreams and aspirations of his younger years into his adulthood, along with 'family' ties to others from the commune.
In reality, this is a family saga of sorts, with the community providing Bit with the family he needs into his adulthood - with all its ups and downs, problems and difficulties. I enjoyed this novel a lot and wished, in fact, that it had been longer. Bit is a wonderful character, so sweet and kind, and it is really refreshing to have a central male character represented in this unstereotypical way - neither macho, nor violent, but sensitive and gentle. Interesting take on a social experiment and would be an ideal book for reading groups, with much to discuss.