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The River King

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  7,524 ratings  ·  441 reviews
Like Ishmael, the narrator of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick , the omniscient teller of Alice Hoffman's The River King has a profound affinity for water. Unlike Ishmael, whose story ends tragically, this narrator, and we, her readers, find in the water's depths the perfect metaphor for the rushing currents of life. For this reason, water is everywhere in Hoffman's latest for ...more
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published July 17th 2000 by Putnam Adult (first published July 2000)
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Nancy Rossman
In the past I have loved Alice's magical and almost poetic prose. Her plots have been intriguing and always such idiosyncratic characters. You know, what' not to love?

THE RIVER KING certainly starts out in the same way though this one dark, lots of rain, twigs breaking, howling wind. Something crappy is going to happen. She lets us know in her own unique way. and so it does. And no pun intended, that is surely the case with what occurs to Gus.

I wish I could divide the book into two scores becau
My generation is over-saturated with scenes of violence, rape, murder, and terror, both on screen and off. As an avid reader and TV junkie, I don't think I could even begin to catalogue how many times a day I see or read something deeply disturbing.

I think that is why "The River King" made such a strong impact on me. It haunts me. It is an extreme rarity that something I am reading can disturb me so much that I need to put it down for a few moments before I can bear to continue. With "The River
Oct 21, 2007 Amanda rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alice Hoffman readers/people who like a slow and overly detailed story
Shelves: mystery
I want to like Alice Hoffman books but they're really hard for me to get into. I'd like to think that I just read them at bad times, like when my mind is on something else. But I gave this one a really good try, and I found that it wasn't too bad, once I get past all the things that don't mesh well between me and Hoffman's writing.

This book centers around a boarding school in New England, a quiet one where the "rich kids" are sent and silently scorned by the townies. When a young boy is found d
This is one of the most poorly edited books I've ever tried to read. So many paragraphs seemed unconnected to the ones before or after them; sometimes the topic seemed to shift mid-paragraph. In once case, a sentence contradicted the one immediately preceding it: on page 74 Carlin "no longer bothered" to reply to her employer; then she "never replied" to her employer. Verbal clunkiness abounds.

And magical realism doesn't mean making sh*t up. There are no badgers in Massachusetts (can't find the
I just finished this book, and I have to say I was thoroughly disappointed. The book started off intriguingly enough with the story unfolding with the tragic local legend of Annie Howe and her untimely death. Her death somewhat relates to another character in the story, and sets the stage to create a misty sad atmosphere. The tension between the town folk and the Hadden School is briefly explained in the begining of the novel, and far less interesting than it promises.

Based on other reviews it
LFPL Teen Services
Jan 24, 2008 LFPL Teen Services rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: High school teens and adults
Alice Hoffman weaves a dark web of mystery and real-world magic in the small town of Haddan, Massachussetts. With a few beams of sunshine through-out, this novel reads like a modern-day gothic.

Carlin, a poor young (but of course, beautiful!) teen, lands a scholarship to the prestigious Haddan School through her determination and swimming abilibity. Haddan is a small boarding school for the elite families of the east coast and outsiders are definitely not welcome. She befriends Gus, a charmingly
Marianne V
Amazing writing. Examples:

(p. 22) "She (Carlin) had swamp dust on her feet and nicotine stains on her fingers, and came from a universe of hash and eggs and broken promises, a place where a women quickly learned that there was no point in crying over spilled milk or bruises left by some man who claimed to love a little too hard or too much."

(p. 128): "Indian summer cme to Haddan in the middle of the night when no one was watching, when people were safely asleep in their beds. Before dawn mist
Zabe Bent
there's so much that I wanted to like about this book: the characters, the story, the themes were all so layered and interesting. I originally thought I would like the fluid, almost lyrical writing style, instead I was constantly wondering who's voice was leading me, and who all the varied characters were.

I almost put it down several times (it took me weeks to read, instead of my usual couple/few days) but the potential resolution of the story kept me interested. just not my cup of tea, I think
The way that Alice Hoffman describes emotions makes me think I've never really felt anything. This was a wonderful story.
People tend to stay in their place in the town of Haddan. The students at the prestigious prep school don't mix with locals; even within the school, hierarchy rules, as freshman and faculty members find out where they fit in and what is expected of them. Gus and Carlin are newcomers to the Haddan school, both from much less privileged backgrounds than most of their classmates. They hit it off right away and become close friends, but while Carlin excels in the classroom and on the swim team, as w ...more
Such glorious writing! Here are two quotes from one page - and these gems are on every page:

"Long after Dr. Jones had completed his lecture, people were still collecting Betsy's personal belongings from beneath their chairs, holding up items to the filtered light as though studying foreign and mysterious artifacts, when in fact all they'd gotten hold of was a notepad or a vial of sleeping pills or a tube of hand cream."

"A chill had passed across her back as she stepped over the threshold, the c
Slow, boring story with flat characters.

The River King took awhile for me to get into. At first the characters didn't interest me. I didn't care about the ghost story, the deceased horrible professor and his wife that never ran away (but should have), and all the crotchety adults that seemed to settle for their unhappy lives in a desolate town at an eerie boarding school. Even Betsy, whom I like and seemingly gets the attention of the entire town still didn't do anything for me.

Then I was introduced to Gus and Carlin, two teenagers th
Kimberly Steele
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The River King is about two misfits who come to a boarding school in the fictional town of Haddan in Massachusetts where they encounter bullying and tragedy at the hands of the other students. What happens stirs up relations between the town and the school and opens up old wounds. The story is about how to recognize a person worthy of true love and how old secrets can lie submerged to pop up again in the present. An atmospheric, lyrically written story that abounds in magical realism, and presen ...more
Sep 03, 2008 Michelle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brandie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A strange mix of magic, boarding school, and unrequited love. Hoffman weaves an interesting tale. Everything is status quo in the town of Haddan. The people who are from town pay little attention to the boarding school population and vice versa. This is, until a body floats up the river. And very few people want to solve the mystery. I am never one to quit reading a book, I found this one to be interesting in parts and rather slow in others. I think I may just give her another try.
I just finished reading this book and didn't like it that much. I have read quite a few Alice Hoffman books, and this is one of my least favorite. I didn't like the statements that she was making about boarding schools or the parallel made between money and lack of intelligence. I could be reading too much into it, but all the even mildly interesting characters in the book had the same characteristics: they were all smart, poor, and critical of wealth and wealthy people in the same normative way ...more
I have enjoyed Alice Hoffman's writing. There was always a sense, in many of her stories, that the witchcraft of the Salem village of the 1620's somehow seeped into the landscape and never dissipated over the years. Set in New England, Hoffman's early novels were rich in the scents and sounds of the lush gardens and forests of New England. One book drew on the history of a cottage on Cape Cod (Blackbird House) and looked at three different families who'd lived in the house at three different ti ...more
Certainly a page turner!! An eerily haunting story about a small town and the private school that is at it's center. So many lives intertwined. A rather backward boy who flirts with a beautiful girl, an oddly strange photographer who is engaged to a terribly odd and boring teacher and the cop who must solve the mystery of the body that was found in the river.

This was an intriguing book with a little of everything in it. Ghostly, friendships, eccentricity, love, mystery, wonderment!
Although the setting of this book at times seemed more murky and brackish than enjoyably mysterious, I do believe that was Hoffman's intent. This book seemed to be quite a bit darker in tone than any of the books I've read by her so far...the description of one hazing in particular left me shuddering and wincing. But again, her masterful ability to meld magical experiences with the every day makes this book shine.
Laura Cowan
I keep liking bits of this but it has a very repetitive rhythm to the sentences that keeps coming back and makes the description sound melodramatic and makes it harder to get into the story.
Really loved the story - gripping and told from many perspectives which drive the plot nicely. The writing was very elegant and lyrical, sometimes too much so, but more on that below, and I loved how she incorporated magical realism into the plot.

Small annoyances: I think that the writing was overwrought at times, which was distracting - like the author was working too hard on making everything sound "beautiful" when she could say it more clearly, and there were too many one-paragraph side stor
A blend of realism and the supernatural permeates this story of a student who was found dead in the river behind the prestigious Hadden School, a private school in Massachusetts where "the rich kids" are sent. Was it suicide or does the school harbor dark secrets? Alice Hoffman challenges the reader to decide what is real and what is not when the worlds of the school and the town collide.
Melissa Watson yoches
I had to read the beginning of the book twice just because I had a hard time getting into it. But then something happened and I just sort of lost myself in the luxuriousness that is Hoffman's language and world of characters. She does this rambling thing where one story leads to another so you get this lush history of the characters. A character isn't just there to move the main story along, or in this case, solve a mystery but rather show that each person has their own unique story and history ...more
There are just some books that do not make you love them until you read the last pages. I was unsure that I would give this book a good rating but as I kept reading and getting closer to the ending I knew that I was going to be touched beyond belief. If I had not read other books by Alice Hoffman and loved them, I might not have even gotten far enough into the book to finish it. As always, her mystic story has touched me and will stay with me a very long time. She always knows the truth about lo ...more
2.5 Stars. Sorry to say, one of my least favorite Alice Hoffman books thus far. It took at least half-way through to become interested in the characters and make sense of the plot, and the ending was a non-event. Did not feel the magic in this one, but I still look forward to future tomes by this author.
I have seriously loved a number of Alice Hoffman's books, but this one is not one of her best. It's nearly all exposition and a number of the plot twists are not written so as to be plausible. A frustrating read, given what delightful writing I know her to be capable of.
Azra Qizilbash
Heads up, none of my reviews are summaries nor a synopsis of the book. I give you my subjective reflections, writing style analysis, my thoughts on the characters and plot development.
Okay, I want to mull on this a bit before I write a full review. But the order in which she wrote The River King then published The Blue Diary after, makes me think she approaches evil and retribution for evil from two angles. One that you receive punishment, but is it really punishment enough? And the second (fro
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Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York ...more
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