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The River King

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  8,383 Ratings  ·  507 Reviews
For more than a century, the small town of Haddan, Massachusetts, has been divided, as if a line drawn down the center of Main Street, separating those born and bred in the village from those who attend the prestigious Haddan School. But one October night the two worlds are thrust together due to an inexplicable death, and the town’s divided history is revealed in all its ...more
Audio CD, Abridged, 0 pages
Published August 28th 2009 by Brilliance Audio (first published July 2000)
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Mar 10, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 09, 2007 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  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
Aug 13, 2013 Melanie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 27, 2013 KA rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marianne V
Jun 11, 2009 Marianne V rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
I felt - correctly so - that The River King would be a great choice for a Sunday afternoon. I very much enjoy Hoffman's work, but hadn't read any of it for quite some time before picking this tome up. Her books are rather easy reading, but are well - and intelligently - written. They also deal with a lot of important themes; here, bullying and the mystery of the death of a teenage student take centre stage.

As in all of Hoffman's work, there is a strong sense of place, and of society, here. It is

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
LFPL Teen Services
Jan 24, 2008 LFPL Teen Services rated it it was amazing  ·  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
May 24, 2007 kc rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Hannah (fullybookedreviews)

I am usually so intrigued by Hoffman's work, but this was an anomaly of note. It's by far one of the author's poorer novels, and I found it a slog to get through. Nothing really happens, to be honest. One of the things that grated on my nerves was that the perspective switches within same chapter and I sometimes wasn't aware of this, which made for a frustrating reading experience. Also, I could have done without the annoying instalove.
Nov 30, 2015 Laurel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You get hooked into Gus and Carlin's story and then suddenly it seems, it's Abel's book instead. This is the first Alice Hoffman book I've read and I did like her style for the most part. Finished it thinking, hastily wrapped up bits and lots of loose ends.

Little Free Library Find (my neighborhood is FULL of them which is a great joy!)
Maria rated it did not like it
Nov 10, 2016
Oct 28, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The way that Alice Hoffman describes emotions makes me think I've never really felt anything. This was a wonderful story.
Oct 07, 2012 Kris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Slow, boring story with flat characters.
Kimberly Steele
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 31, 2015 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
3.5 -2 or 3 for the first part, up to app. p. 1oo - 125, 4 or 4.5 for the rest of the 342 pages. the first part seemed overly descriptive, full of irrelevant details, questionable editing, some descriptions didn't seem to fit the time or setting. i only persevered because i usually give a book about 100 pages, a good guideline for scifi books.
then i became very interested in the rest of the story - the characters became more fleshed out, hought , lives full of mystery and magic. i loved the endi
Mary Lou
It took me awhile to get into this book. Eventually it grabbed me, but then let me down with the ending, which was rushed and unsatisfying. What's bothering me most in retrospect is the heavy-handed use of imagery and symbolism that doesn't seem to really symbolize anything. Hoffman has mastered the use of nature and weather to create a mood (especially of foreboding), but the constant mentioning of the river, the fish, the pebbles, the coat, the cat, the swans - you get the picture - would indi ...more
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
Apr 25, 2010 Elfscribe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2008 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Brandie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 18, 2017 Audrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book so much!! This is the first book by this author and I cannot wait to read more by her. The story is wonderful and sweet and some points and also very sad and tragic.

I fell in love with the characters and the setting is just amazing the way Alice Hoffman describes the school, the characters, the town and the woods surrounding the school just made me feel as if I was a real part of the story.
Jun 13, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I loved this, adored reading reading "classic" Alice Hoffman, in the vein of "Practical Magic", "The Red Garden", "The Probable Future", "Skylight Confessions", and "The Ice Queen", to name a few favorite, good ones. (I have to confess I'm not so much a fan, so far, of Hoffman's recent stint into historical fiction, the likes of "The DoveKeepers" and "The Museum of Extraordinary Things", both novels I couldn't get into or finish.) I'd seen the movie (TV movie? Indie film? Not sure) a few years a ...more
Sep 15, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marie Sexton
Feb 05, 2016 Marie Sexton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars, really. I would have liked a bit more justice for Gus and Abe, in the end.

Also, because I'm a football fan, I have to point out that the characters supposedly have dessert on Thanksgiving Day just as the third nationally televised football game is kicking off, but when this book was released, there were only two games played on Thanksgiving, both of which were nationally televised (always the Cowboys in one game, the Lions in another). The third Thanksgiving Day game wasn't added unt
Mar 22, 2009 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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!
Jul 27, 2008 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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“Outside, the September air was enticingly fragrant, yellow with pollen and rich, lemony sunlight.” 32 likes
“There was the blue sky above her and all those many roses, the ones that gave off the scent of cloves in the rain and the ones that left a trace of lemon on your fingers, the ones that were the color of blood, and those that were as white as clouds. Each one was sweeter than the next and as red as gemstones.” 12 likes
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