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The Drowning Season

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3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  1,993 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
Upon turning eighteen, Esther the Black looks for a chance to escape from her hated and dying grandmother, Esther the White, who lives in seclusion on Long Island, where each summer her son, Philip, tries to kill himself by walking into the ocean.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Signet (first published 1979)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Laura
Feb 15, 2015 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book but didn't love it. Full of selfish characters and found that I didn't like a single one of them. But I thought the story was interesting enough. I found the characters refused to feel and engage in each others lives and when the end came none of them had anything of consequence. They mostly lived in the past and missed out on so much in the moment. More of a 3.5 rating for me. I was not disappointed in Hoffman's story just not her usual 4-5 star book. I would recommend this bo ...more
Caroline
Jul 29, 2012 Caroline rated it did not like it
Wow. I finally found an Alice Hoffman book I didn't like. I didn't like the characters, the story, nothing. NONE of the characters were likable or elicited sympathy. Bummer. At least it was a quick read and I didn't waste a lot of time on it.
Cindy Pollock
Did not enjoy this one. Seemed contrived. Am a big Hoffman fan so I had high expectations.
Erin
Aug 18, 2012 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Having loved several of Alice Hoffman's books, I was taken by surprise by the lack of depth and good storytelling in this novel. I thought the style was completely different from her other works, the characters were undeveloped and I was bored to death by the lot of them. There were so many cliches, I cannot possibly list them all. Selling a dwarf to a circus? A preppy kid who wants to be a punk rocker and changes his name to Pagan Rath? Pagan? Really? I can't begin to count how many times I had ...more
Laura
Nov 01, 2010 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The premise behind the book has great potential but the book did not provide enough depth
Cheri
Oct 22, 2016 Cheri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have not read a book by her that I haven't loved!
Onceinabluemoon
I usually love quirky books and everything Hoffman writes, true this was written in the 70s, and she has honed her craft over the decades, but it did very little for me. I picked the title because I live on the coast and very sadly there was another drowning out my window this week. Real life and fiction didn't mesh well, not sure what I was looking for, perhaps some solace but it was a poor selection. She is an eloquent writer, but the book was too off kilter even for me this week. A bit of goo ...more
Anna Ragsdale
3.5 stars

...she wanted to sit in the dark and whisper all of her fears into an ear which would hold every word like a silver shell.

i have loved alice hoffman since i was little- she's a poet, in my opinion, who happens to write fantastic novels. as the second book she ever published, i can see the hoffman i love emerging, but she's not fully developed. although this wasn't my favorite of hers, it definitely speaks volumes of her writing skills and foretold how she would become one of the best s
...more
Chris
Aug 24, 2014 Chris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
This was a very odd story, and I felt like it just ended..really no satisfying conclusion. I kept thinking throughout the read, how did the author come up with these characters & storyline? Esther (the white), Mischa, & Max ( a dwarf) were raised as brothers & sister; but discovered that Esther actually wasn't. They escape childhood hardship eventually settling in France. Esther "sells" Max to a circus and Esther & Mischa marry & head to London. Esther's son Phillip develops ...more
Elise
Jun 16, 2013 Elise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge fan of Alice Hoffman's novels, so I have already read most of them. How delightful to discover her earlier works like "The Drowning Season" which I had previously missed. If I understand correctly, this was first published in 1979, and came out two years after her first novel, "Property Of." Hoffman really grew as a novelist and developed her craft so much between her first and second novels, judging from the depth of character development that makes "The Drowning Season" so complex, ...more
Louise
Mar 22, 2009 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Since I've suffer severe "insomnia"...I read this wonderful piece of literary genius during the middle of the night.

Alice Hoffman has written a hypnotic and mesmerizing novel with 'The Drowning Season'. I was sorry to see this novel end!

From back cover:

"On a secluded waterfront estate on the North Shore of Long Island, a matriarch named Esther rules over her clan. But in spite of her sharp tongue and manipulative ways, she cannot quite keep control over her charges. Her son, Phillip, routinely t
...more
Jonna
Oct 25, 2011 Jonna rated it it was amazing
Alice Hoffman is a poet who just happens to write novels. I am a poet who happens to read novels. Is it any wonder that Hoffman's books are among my favorites? With each book, I become more enchanted, more in awe of her.
The Drowning Season is, like so many of Hoffman's works, almost a fairy tale. The story of two women, Esther-the-Black, and her granddaughter, Esther-the-White, follows their lives through one summer, the drowning season. As Esther-the-White struggles to find peace and love at t
...more
Sherri
I like Alice Hoffman, but as I started this one I felt like the style was a little different. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I had trouble getting into it like I do most of her books. I did like the characters and the story was interesting. Her characters are always so interesting, it seems like I can usually relate to them and I did in this story as well. The underlying story in this to me was about how people perceive us in a certain way, but they don't understand that events have sha ...more
Carol
Jan 11, 2011 Carol rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Seems as if there were many unresolved issues left hanging at the end of this book. The story was rather flat and predictable. Didn't care much for this one - and I had high hopes coming from this author.
Ann
Jun 28, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An early Hoffman novel. It lacks her signature magic realism, but does contain moments of enchantment and a fairy tale sensibility.
Jenn Waltner
It's one of Hoffman's earlier books, and it shows. It's solid, but not captivating in the way her later works are.
Susanne Winterhawk
Somewhat different from Hoffman's usual.
Anita
Jan 03, 2013 Anita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Novel about a granddaughter, mother, and grandmother and their wounded and often distorted interactions with one another and those they love. Esther the White, the grandmother, seems to live in the past fighting for the future and continually coping and struggling with the present. The lives of individual characters interweave with a neglected angry daughter, a mentally challenged son continually trying to drown himself, a manipulative husband's brother, a faithful gardener, an unloved but cared ...more
Deborah  Cleaves
Very disappointing read given all the excellent reviews. Ugly unengaging characters irrelevantly described by racial coloration. A story of an unloving mother/grandmother who decides at the last moment in life that she wants to be understood before she dies. Nothing about it was believable and it was so off-putting. Selling one sibling and marrying the other? Hated the beach. There was no redeeming social value not even when the conclusion was reached. Instead there was the feeling that a great ...more
Wilma
Dec 18, 2016 Wilma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I dearly love Alice Hoffman's books. Where does she come up with these ideas?

Highly recommend this to all.
Martha Alami
It was difficult for me to give this book 2 stars, but I love Alice Hoffman. I could swear this book was not written by her. It was poorly written and poorly constructed. The characters were so flat and boring with no real life or purpose. The story line was so poor with no real direction or conclusion. I understand it is one of her earlier books but I don't even know how it got published. It is depressing and the characters are depressing. There is very little explanation of anyone's actions. S ...more
Julie
Sep 21, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am really enjoying discovering this author, that was recommended a couple years ago to me. As always, I need to start at the beginning of what they have written and I'm really glad that I did. From reading some of the other reviews, I think if you have read her more current stuff, then try to go back to the beginning, you don't enjoy the journey as much.

I thoroughly enjoyed how Hoffman gives you a sense of the characters and how they connect to each other. I definitely see how her writing sty
...more
Andrew Herren
Jun 16, 2012 Andrew Herren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing this book I remember why I love Alice Hoffman so much. She lures the reader in to the lives of very complex characters with such simple language that I often forget I'm reading a book; I feel like I'm being told a story.
But what a dysfunctional family! Each resident of the Compound was so haunted by their search for a love that they didn't know what to do with it once they received it. I did end with the feeling that it is never to late to learn to love. No matter how damaged an
...more
Purple Country Girl (Sandy)
An early work by Alice Hoffman that shows her potential but isn’t quite there yet. I’m all for tales of dysfunctional families but this was a little weird. It's hard to follow as well mainly because of the copious flashbacks. At times, it’s difficult to keep track of the time period because the shifts from past to present are not clearly drawn. Also, many of the characters leave a lot to desired - only one or two have any redeeming qualities. It's an okay read but definitely not one of Hoffman's ...more
Michelle
Eh...it was okay. Random circus midget, Lisa and Rose are not really developed, overall a very patchy book. I live out east on Long Island but got no feel for the book being here, although in other Hoffman books it feels right at home. I wish there were less "outside interferences" like the accountant and his son, the job Esther gets in town...all unnecessary. I would have liked to get to know more about life inside the compound, more about the fishermen and more about Cohen. Even more about the ...more
Diane
Jul 25, 2016 Diane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how I feel about this book. I've read other Hoffmans (I loved The Dovekeepers) and liked them, but this one was strange. I don't know if I quite understood it really, a very odd story line. I gave it a two because of the writing itself. I believe (?) this story is about coming to terms with one's life - the how and why you got to where you are and who you've become. How other people perceive you and how you interact with others has to do with how you evolved, the circumstances of yo ...more
Lynn
Feb 15, 2015 Lynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was thrilled to find an Alice Hoffman book I hadn't read. I was surprised and disappointed to discover that I really didn't care for it very much. It's a strange little story of a family with too many secrets and not enough heart. The writing lacks Hoffman's usual spark. The characters aren't as well developed as one would expect. The magic is just missing. I'm glad I discovered this one as a firmly entrenched Alice Hoffman groupie. Otherwise I might have missed the joy her later works have br ...more
Melissa Morales
An intriguing story revolving around two women named Esther, the grandmother Esther the white and the granddaughter Esther the black, and their family of misfits. Esther's son/father tries to drown himself every Summer. The landscaper Chen has been in love with Esther the white for over 20 years but has never said anything about it. Esther the white is full of ghosts from the past. Esther the black just wants to escape her grandmothers control. This was a great read full of the stuff that makes ...more
Tonya
Oct 14, 2011 Tonya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Alice Hoffman's second novel and after reading several of her later works you can tell this was an earlier one. This was an intriguing story but lacked the smooth flow and character development most of her other books have. This also lacked the magic elements that are usually woven so masterfully through her stories. I still love Hoffman's work and can't wait to read another of her wonderful books.
Carol
Sep 24, 2011 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not love or hate this book. I didn't have a connection with any of the characters. Ester the White was bitter, controlling and uncaring for her family. Ester the Black was a was alone in her family and community, not fitting in with any of them, not that I would want too. They are all messed up. But she just wanted to be loved by someone. The ending was neither good or bad, it sort of ended abruptly.
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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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