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The River King

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  10,064 ratings  ·  652 reviews
From the best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, The River King confirms Alice Hoffman as "one of our quirkiest and most interesting novelists" (Jane Smiley, USA Today).

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
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published July 17th 2000 by Putnam Publishing Group (first published July 2000)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,064 ratings  ·  652 reviews

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Mar 10, 2012 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
Marianne V
Jun 11, 2009 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
Oct 09, 2007 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
Jess The Bookworm
2.5 stars.

This novel is set in the town of Haddan, right along the river's edge. A prestigious school has been built in the town, which the locals do not go to, and hold somewhat of a resentment towards the privileged students who go there.

This story follows two students who start attending Haddan, but do not fit in, and it highlights their struggles in trying to feel accepted, but also to keep to themselves. One of these pupils is found dead in the river, and the investigation reveals that the
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
Nov 30, 2015 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!)

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
Aug 13, 2013 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 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
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
Oct 28, 2014 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. ...more
The mysticism didn't even bother me!

Even back then, there seemed to be a truth he couldn't quite get to, and now he wondered why he hadn't fought harder to find it out and ask the simplest and most difficult question of all: Why?

Perhaps what people said was true, that any man who lived long enough would eventually realize that the way in which he was cursed was also the blessing he'd received.

His uncle Pete had taken him aside that morning and told him when he got older he'd understand that p
Apr 25, 2010 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
LFPL Teen Services
Jan 24, 2008 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
Jul 27, 2008 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. ...more
Hannah (jellicoereads)

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.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yet another underrated gem by Alice Hoffman.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What in the fresh hell was this?

I loved The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, so I'd figured, why not pick up a random Hoffman at the secondhand sale?
Not to be dramatic but I regret everything that lead me to read this book :')

It had super fun things like:
the beloved I'm not like other girls trope!
"'Carlin glared at him, scornful. Her eyes were a shade of green that could turn gray in an instant, like shallow water that mirrored any change in the weather. "I'm not most pe
Mike Finn
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As soon as I started "The River King" I was smiling at having found something distinctive and wonderful.

I luxuriated in surrendering myself into the hands of a dryly witty, joyfully articulate and completely omniscient narrator who curated my journey through the lives of a small group of people at a long-established boarding school in a tiny Massachusetts town.
The form is close to that of a well-edited early twentieth-century novel but the sensibility is that of the early twenty-first century.

Kimberly Steele
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 31, 2015 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
Linda Owen
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Private boarding school portrayed stereotypically as a nasty place for many of its students and the influence of the school way too powerful in the town of Haddan. A student's death: suicide? or murder? We have a dogged police investigator and an art instructor unconvinced by the easy answer. The compelling (to me) character is fellow student and, usually, friend Carlin Leander. She is a strong young woman who is trying to make her future her own; she is knocked sideways by Gus's death. Satisfyi ...more
Dele Haynes
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've really gotten into reading Alice Hoffman lately. I enjoy the fact that her stories are never simply a love story. There is always a little otherworldness in her books. The River King is no different. Like most of her books, it takes place in Massachusetts. The prestigious boarding school, Haddin School, was built in Hadden a century ago. The school was a dividing factor in the town between the haves and haves not. That is until a student turns up dead. Then the town and school's secrets beg ...more
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
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
May 24, 2007 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
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
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Dana Al-Basha دانة الباشا
Sarah Addison Allen recommended this book saying "Released a few years ago, but a Hoffman masterpiece." ...more
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Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel is Magic Lessons. She lives near Boston.

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