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The Drowning Season

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  1,370 ratings  ·  58 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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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.
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
Cindy Pollock
Did not enjoy this one. Seemed contrived. Am a big Hoffman fan so I had high expectations.
The premise behind the book has great potential but the book did not provide enough depth
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
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
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
Jonna Doughty
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
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.
An early Hoffman novel. It lacks her signature magic realism, but does contain moments of enchantment and a fairy tale sensibility.
Michelle 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
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
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
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
I enjoyed this story of a family getting to know each other through interesting times. The writing is wonderful, but I wish the characters had been more developed. I read The Dovekeepers and was expecting something similar. Still, it was a worthwhile read.
Andrew Herren
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
Purple Country Girl
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
Thoughtful haunting early novel about a deeply dysfunctional family trying to face up to their issues.
Susanne Winterhawk
Somewhat different from Hoffman's usual.
Couldn't put it down. Alice Hoffman is one of my new favorites!
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.
This is the first novel by Alice Hoffman that I did not like. I found that her style of writing was lost behind the lack of depth in the characters and plot. I found the references to the two Esther's was confusing. In her later novels I think that she really develops her writing style and you can have a stronger connection with the characters.
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.
Abby Warren
This was one of Hoffman`s earlier books and what I`m finding is that I am not as much a fan of her earlier work. For me, her books started to become amazing in the mid nineties. So this story was not as compelling and her characters in this one really weren`t likeable in my opinion. This is not going to stop me from reading her whole library of course.
Cecelia Hightower
Alice Hoffman books are magic; her writing style and characters are quirky and strange. Her stories are always lessons learned that connect to something in my life and/or identifying with one of the characters. A suicide and family dysfunction are balanced with relationships and unexpected bonding.
This was okay. It had some wonderful sentences and images, but did not impress me as much as some of Hoffman's other works. People who like Hoffman's work in general will read it anyway; I wouldn't recommend it to someone who was asking me which of her books to try first.
Annette Jussaume
Written with Alice Hoffman's gift of bringing a hint of magic to a story. Story of Russian woman who does anything to survive and leave her village. She loses her ability to have feelings and tries with her granddaughter. Not the best Hoffman book.
Sep 27, 2007 Cherie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alice Hoffman fans
A- This is a novel where the truth slowly pulls out--layers upon layers, stories where love is found in the oddest of places, where histories are not revealed until it's nearly too late. I love Hoffman's development of charact
My first Alice Hoffman novel, and I have to say that I did find the story strange, but beautiful. I seem to be fascinated by stories of dysfunctional eccentric families, and this one does not disappoint.
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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
More about Alice Hoffman...
The Dovekeepers Here on Earth Practical Magic The Museum of Extraordinary Things The Red Garden

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