Blackbird House

Blackbird House

by Alice Hoffman


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With “incantatory prose” that “sweeps over the reader like a dream,” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Hoffman follows her celebrated bestseller The Probable Future, with an evocative work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years.

In a rare and gorgeous departure, beloved novelist Alice Hoffman weaves a web of tales, all set in Blackbird House. This small farm on the outer reaches of Cape Cod is a place that is as bewitching and alive as the characters we meet: Violet, a brilliant girl who is in love with books and with a man destined to betray her; Lysander Wynn, attacked by a halibut as big as a horse, certain that his life is ruined until a boarder wearing red boots arrives to change everything; Maya Cooper, who does not understand the true meaning of the love between her mother and father until it is nearly too late. From the time of the British occupation of Massachusetts to our own modern world, family after family’s lives are inexorably changed, not only by the people they love but by the lives they lead inside Blackbird House.

These interconnected narratives are as intelligent as they are haunting, as luminous as they are unusual. Inside Blackbird House more than a dozen men and women learn how love transforms us and how it is the one lasting element in our lives. The past both dissipates and remains contained inside the rooms of Blackbird House, where there are terrible secrets, inspired beauty, and, above all else, a spirit of coming home.

From the writer Time has said tells "truths powerful enough to break a reader’s heart” comes a glorious travelogue through time and fate, through loss and love and survival. Welcome to Blackbird House.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345455932
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/29/2005
Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 165,067
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

ALICE HOFFMAN is the author of sixteen acclaimed novels, including Practical Magic, Here on Earth, Blue Diary, and, most recently, The Probable Future. She has also written five books for children. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

March 16, 1952

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

Read an Excerpt



It was said that boys should go on their first sea voyage at the age of ten, but surely this notion was never put forth by anyone's mother. If the bay were to be raised one degree in temperature for every woman who had lost the man or child she loved at sea, the water would have boiled, throwing off steam even in the dead of winter, poaching the bluefish and herrings as they swam.

Every May, the women in town gathered at the wharf. No matter how beautiful the day, scented with new grass or spring onions, they found themselves wishing for snow and ice, for gray November, for December's gales and land-locked harbors, for fleets that returned, safe and sound, all hands accounted for, all boys grown into men. Women who had never left Massachusetts dreamed of the Middle Banks and the Great Banks the way some men dreamed of hell: The place that could give you everything you might need and desire. The place that could take it all away.

This year the fear of what might be was worse than ever, never mind gales and storms and starvation and accidents, never mind rum and arguments and empty nets. This year the British had placed an embargo on the ships of the Cape. No one could go in or out of the harbor, except unlawfully, which is what the fishermen in town planned to do come May, setting off on moonless nights, a few sloops at a time, with the full knowledge that every man caught would be put to death for treason and every boy would be sent to Dartmoor Prison in England—as good as death, people in town agreed, but colder and some said more miserable.

Most people made their intentions known right away, those who would go and those who would stay behind to man the fort beside Long Pond if need be, a battle station that was more of a cabin than anything, but at least it was something solid to lean against should a man have to take aim and fire. John Hadley was among those who wanted to stay. He made that clear, and everyone knew he had his reasons. He had just finished the little house in the hollow that he'd been working on with his older son, Vincent, for nearly three years. During this time, John Hadley and Vincent had gone out fishing each summer, searching out bluefish and halibut, fish large enough so that you could fill up your catch in a very short time. John's sloop was small, his desires were few: he wanted to give his wife this house, nothing fancy, but carefully made all the same, along with the acreage around it, a meadow filled with wild grapes and winterberry. Wood for building was hard to come by, so John had used old wrecked boats for the joists, deadwood he'd found in the shipyard, and when there was none of that to be had, he used fruitwood he'd culled from his property, though people insisted applewood and pear wouldn't last. There was no glass in the windows, only oiled paper, but the light that came through was dazzling and yellow; little flies buzzed in and out of the light, and everything seemed slow, molasses slow, lovesick slow.

John Hadley felt a deep love for his wife, Coral, more so than anyone might guess. He was still tongue-tied in her presence, and he had the foolish notion that he could give her something no other man could. Something precious and lasting and hers alone. It was the house he had in mind whenever he looked at Coral. This was what love was to him: when he was at sea he could hardly sleep without the feel of her beside him. She was his anchor, she was his home; she was the road that led to everything that mattered to John Hadley.

Otis West and his cousin Harris Maguire had helped with the plans for the house—a keeping room, an attic for the boys, a separate chamber for John and Coral. These men were good neighbors, and they'd helped again when the joists were ready, even though they both thought John was a fool for giving up the sea. A man didn't give up who he was, just to settle down. He didn't trade his freedom for turnips. Still, these neighbors spent day after day working alongside John and Vincent, bringing their oxen to help lift the crossbeams, hollering for joy when the heart of the work was done, ready to get out the good rum. The town was like that: for or against you, people helped each other out. Even old Margaret Swift, who was foolish enough to have raised the British flag on the pole outside her house, was politely served when she came into the livery store, though there were folks in town who believed that by rights she should be drinking tar and spitting feathers.

John's son Vincent was a big help in the building of the house, just as he was out at sea, and because of this they would soon be able to move out of the rooms they let at Hannah Crosby's house. But Isaac, the younger boy, who had just turned ten, was not quite so helpful. He meant to be, but he was still a child, and he'd recently found a baby blackbird that kept him busy. Too busy for other chores, it seemed. First, he'd had to feed the motherless creature every hour with crushed worms and johnnycake crumbs, then he'd had to drip water into the bird's beak from the tip of his finger. He'd started to hum to the blackbird, as if it were a real baby. He'd started to talk to it when he thought no one could overhear.

"Wild creatures belong in the wild," Coral Hadley told her son. All the same, she had difficulty denying Isaac anything. Why, she let the boy smuggle his pet into the rooms they let at the Crosbys' boarding house, where he kept the blackbird in a wooden box beside his bed.

The real joy of the house they were building, as much for John as for anyone, was that it was, indeed, a farm. They would have cows and horses to consider, rather than halibut and bluefish; predictable beasts at long last, and a large and glorious and predictable meadow as well. Rather than the cruel ocean, there would be fences, and a barn, and a deep cistern of cold well water, the only water John's boys would need or know, save for the pond at the rear of the property, where damselflies glided above the mallows in spring. John Hadley had begun to talk about milk cows and crops. He'd become fascinated with turnips, how hardy they were, how easy to grow, even in sandy soil. In town, people laughed at him. John Hadley knew this, and he didn't care. He'd traveled far enough in his lifetime. Once, he'd been gone to the island of Nevis all summer long with the Crosbys on their sloop; he'd brought Coral back an emerald, he'd thought then that was what she wanted most in the world. But she'd told him to sell it and buy land. She knew that was what he wanted.

Coral was a good woman, and John was a handsome man, tall, with dark hair and darker eyes, a Cornishman, as tough as men from Cornwall always were. All the same, he didn't have too much pride to herd sheep, or clean out a stable, or plant corn and turnips, though it meant a long-term battle with brambles and nettle. Still, his was a town of fishermen; much as soldiers who can never leave their country once they've buried their own in the earth, so here it was the North Atlantic that called to them, a graveyard for sure, but home just as certainly. And John was still one of them, at least for the present time. If a man in these parts needed to earn enough to buy fences and cows and turnips, he knew where he had to go. It would only be from May to July, John figured, and that would be the end of it, especially if he was helped by his two strong sons.

They moved into the house in April, a pale calm day when the buds on the lilacs their neighbors had planted as a welcome were just about to unfold. The house was finished enough to sleep in; there was a fireplace where Coral could cook, and the rest would come eventually. Quite suddenly, John and Coral felt as though time was unlimited, that it was among the things that would never be in short supply.

"That's where the horses will be," John Hadley told Coral. They were looking out over the field that belonged to them, thanks to those years John had spent at sea and the emerald they'd sold. "I'll name one Charger. I had a horse called that when I was young."

Coral laughed to think of him young. She saw her boys headed for the pond. The blackbird chick rode on Isaac's shoulder and flapped his wings. It was their first day, the beginning of everything. Their belongings were still in crates.

"I'll just take him with me and Vincent this one time," John said. "I promise. Then we'll concentrate on turnips."

"No," Coral said. She wanted three milk cows and four sheep and her children safe in their own beds. She thought about her youngest, mashing worms into paste for his fledgling. "Isaac can't go."

By then the brothers had reached the shores of the little pond. The frogs jumped away as they approached. The blackbird, frightened by the splashing, hopped into the safety of Isaac's shirt, and sent out a small muffled cry.

"He's like a hen," the older brother jeered. At fifteen, Vincent had grown to his full height, six foot, taller than his father; he was full of himself and how much he knew. He'd been to sea twice, after all, and he figured he was as good as any man; he already had calluses on his hands. He didn't need to go to school anymore, which was just as well, since he'd never been fond of his lessons. "He doesn't even know he can fly," he said of his brother's foundling.

"I'll teach him." Isaac felt in his shirt for the blackbird. The feathers reminded him of water, soft and cool. Sometimes Isaac let the chick sleep right beside him, on the quilt his mother had sewn out of indigo homespun.

"Nah, you won't. He's a big baby. Just like you are. He'll be walking around on your shoulder for the rest of his life."

After that, Isaac brought the blackbird into the woods every day, just to prove Vincent wrong. He climbed into one of the tall oaks and let his legs dangle over a high limb. He urged the blackbird to fly away, but the bird was now his pet, too attached to ever leave; the poor thing merely paced on his shoulder and squawked. Isaac decided to name his pet Ink. Ink was an indoor bird, afraid of the wind, and of others of his own kind. He hopped around the parlor, and nested beneath the woodstove, where it was so hot he singed his feathers. He sat on the table and sipped water from a saucer while Isaac did his studies. It was a navigation book Isaac was studying. The Practical Navigator. If he was not as strong as Vincent, or as experienced, then at least he could memorize the chart of the stars; he could know the latitude of where they were going and where they'd been.

"Do you think I could teach him to talk?" Isaac said dreamily to his mother one day. Ink was perched on the tabletop, making a nuisance of himself.

"What would a blackbird have to say?" Coral laughed.

"He'd say: I'll never leave you. I'll be with you for all time."

Hearing those words, Coral felt faint; she said she needed some air. She went into the yard and faced the meadow and gazed at the way the tall grass moved in the wind. That night she said to her husband again, "Don't take him with you, John."

April was ending, with sheets of rain and the sound of the peepers calling from the shore of the pond. Classes would end in a few days, too—they called it a fisherman's school, so that boys were free to be sent out to work with their fathers or uncles or neighbors from May till October. The Hadleys left in the first week of that mild month, a night when there was no moon. The fog had come in; so much the better when it came to sneaking away. The British had lookouts to the east and the west, and it was best to take a northerly route. They brought along molasses, the fishing nets, johnnycake, and salted pork, and, unknown to John and Vincent, Isaac took along his blackbird as well, tucked into his jacket. As they rounded the turn out of their own harbor, Isaac took his pet from his hiding place.

"You could do it now if you wanted to," he said to the bird. "You could fly away."

But the blackbird shivered in the wind, startled, it seemed, by the sound of water. He scrambled back to the safety of Isaac's jacket, feathers puffed up, the way they always were when he was frightened.

"I told you he'd never fly." Vincent had spied the blackbird. He nudged his brother so that Isaac would help check the nets. "He's pathetic, really."

"No, he's not!"

By now they were past the fog that always clung to shore at this time of year, and the night was clear. There were so many stars in the sky, and the vast expanse of dark and light was frightening. The water was rougher than Isaac had ever seen it in their bay, and they were still not even halfway to the Middle Banks. The sloop seemed small out here, far too breakable.

"Is this the way it always is?" Isaac asked his brother. He felt sick to his stomach; there was a lurching in his bones and blood. He thought about the oak tree and the meadow and the frogs and the way his mother looked at him when he came in through the door.

"It's the way it is tonight," Vincent said.

Used to the sea, Vincent fell asleep easily, but Isaac couldn't close his eyes. John Hadley understood; he came to sit beside the boy. It was so dark that every star in the sky hung suspended above the mast, as though only inches above them. Isaac recognized the big square of Pegasus that he'd seen in his book. The night looked like spilled milk, and John Hadley pointed out Leo, the harbinger of spring, then the North Star, constant as always. John could hear the chattering of the blackbird in his son's waistcoat. He could taste his wife's farewell kiss.

"What happens if a storm comes up?" Isaac said, free to be frightened now that his brother was asleep, free to be the boy he still was. "What happens if I'm thrown overboard? Or if a whale comes along? What happens then?"

"Then I'll save you." When the wind changed John Hadley smelled turnips, he really did, and he laughed at the scent of it, how it had followed him all this way to the Middle Banks, to remind him of everything he had to lose.

Reading Group Guide

In a rare and gorgeous departure, beloved novelist Alice Hoffman weaves a web of tales all set in Blackbird House. This small farm on the outer reaches of Cape Cod is a place that is as bewitching and alive as the characters we meet: Violet, a brilliant girl who is in love with books and with a man destined to betray her; Lysander Wynn, attacked by a halibut as big as a horse, certain that his life is ruined until a boarder wearing red boots arrives to change everything; Maya Cooper, who does not understand the true meaning of love between her mother and father until it is nearly too late. From the time of the British occupation of Massachusetts to our own modern world, family after family’s lives are inexorably changed not only by the people they love, but by the lives they lead inside Blackbird House.

The questions that follow are designed to enhance your discussion and personal reading of BLACKBIRD HOUSE.

1. How does “The Edge of the World” set the tone for Blackbird House? How would you characterize the house—is it frightening, soothing, mysterious? Did your feelings about the house change as the book unfolded? If so,how?

2. In the opening story, “The Edge of the World,” a fisherman and his son are lost at sea. How do they haunt Blackbird House, both literally and figuratively? In which ways are the other characters, themselves floundering and lost, seeking to be found? What other ghosts—both literal and metaphorical—are present in the book?

3. When Coral finds eggs with holes in “The Edge of the World,” she views them as omens “of lives unfinished.” What other omens does Coral notice? How are these omens similar and different from the signs that Maya’s mother perceives two hundred years later in “India”? How is the white bird an omen?

4. Why do you think that Vincent stays away from his childhood home for so long in “The Edge of the World”? What do you suppose his mother’s reaction is upon his return? Why do you think he is fearless about the sea?

5. The image of drowning courses throughout the book, from the literal loss of life of John and Isaac (in “The Edge of the World”) to Lysander’s accident (“The Witch of Truro”), to the characterization of Emma’s parents as “two drowning people” in “The Summer Kitchen.” What about the act of drowning is so potent in describing loss, either of life or of love? In which other ways does the power of nature play a role in the book?

6. Love at first sight occurs with many of the couples in Blackbird House. Name them. How does this thunderbolt of passion change and shape their lives? Which couple do you think is best suited for one another in the book? The worst? Do you believe in love at first sight?

7. Sibling relationships are very important in Blackbird House. How does sibling rivalry inform some of them,such as Violet’s relationship with Huley (in “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair”)? How do siblings form a support network for one another, such as Emma and Walker (“The Summer Kitchen” and “Wish You Were Here”) and Garnet and Ruby (“The Token”)? Which sibling pair do you consider to be the most loving and supportive toward one another? Does one pair remind you of you and your siblings?

8. Sibling relationships are very important in Blackbird House. How does sibling rivalry inform some of them,such as Violet’s relationship with Huley (in “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair”)? How do siblings form a support network for one another, such as Emma and Walker (“The Summer Kitchen” and “Wish You Were Here”) and Garnet and Ruby (“The Token”)? Which sibling pair do you consider to be the most loving and supportive toward one another? Does one pair remind you of you and your siblings?

9. “I realized I would have to be careful about who I became,” Garnet says in “The Token.” What drives her toward this revelation? How does Garnet’s relationship with her mother change as a result of it? Who else in the book has an epiphany that’s driven by the behavior of a parent?

10. Why does Larkin promise Lucinda he will “change the world” in “Insulting the Angels”? How is this uncharacteristic of him? What change does Larkin himself want? Why do you think that Lucinda leaves the baby with him and goes off to fight?

11. Violet sees books as a passageway to something greater. How does knowledge broaden her horizons? In what ways does it stifle her? Do you think she’s correct when she wonders, in “Lionheart,” if sending Lion to Harvard was the “greatest mistake she’s ever made”? Why are Lion, and his son after him, so adored by Violet?

12. “When he kissed her, he felt as though he were swallowing sadness,” thinks Lion, Jr., of his love for Dorey (p. 116, in “The Conjurer’s Handbook”). What about Dorey attracts Lion? How does their relationship overcome its mournful circumstances to take flight? What similarities do Dorey and Violet share?

13. How does Maya turn away from her parents in “India”? In what ways does she emulate her brother in her dismissal of what her parents stand for? Do you think they come to a better comprehension of one another after Kalkin’s death? Why or why not?

14. “Loneliness can become nasty and hopeless,” Hoffman writes on page 162. Which characters allow loneliness to fill them with bitterness? In contrast, who enjoys time alone and grows as a result of it?

15. In the book, there’s a reluctance to meddle in the business of others—from “The Wedding of Snow and Ice,”where neighbors ignore the physical abuse occurring next door, to “The Pear Tree,” a chronicle of a family’s struggle with a troubled child. Why is the community so hesitant to become involved in these situations? What about Blackbird House might encourage the isolation of its inhabitants? How is this similar to or different from your personal experiences in a community?

16. How does Jamie’s experience in “The Wedding of Snow and Ice” shape the course of his life? What about it sparks his decision to become a doctor? How is he similar and different to Walker, another young boy (in “The Summer Kitchen”) who decides to enter the medical profession?

17. Emma wishes for “the person she could have been if she hadn’t been stopped in some way” (p. 219) in “Wish You Were Here.” Who else in the book has a dividing line between the person they were and who they are now? Do you have a point in your life that’s as significant? What is it?

18. What compels Emma to reach out to the boy at her door at the end of the book? How does the boy share striking similarities to Isaac in “The Edge of the World”? How does Hoffman bring the story full circle in the novel’s last scene?

Customer Reviews

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Blackbird House 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most of the stories in this book are endearing. A few fall too short, but all in all a very charming read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alice-- I loved this book. I lived in MA for most of my life and spent a college summer on the Cape in West Dennis beach. Riding my bike around the Cape looking at the old houses and walking through the cemeteries there were stories to be told and you told them!! You really get the Cape-- what it's about--the smells-- the tastes-- and the people. There are so many great books written about the Cape and this is certainly one of them. Thanks for taking me there Alice --
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman is a conjurer of prose. She understands human frailty, vulnerability, self-conscious loathing of birth abnormalities, the need for feeling love, and other acts of living. She writes about New England as well as anyone writing today - her pages are filled with visual stimuli that hang so closely to the retina that though they are often repeated (the color red as embodied by pears, berries, blood, leather, etc.), each repetition serves only to magnify the original richness of impulse. BLACKBIRD HOUSE spans 200 odd years of life on Cape Cod, and while many are calling the chapters 'essays' or 'short stories', they seem more like a cohesive novel about the land and the endurance of the sea and time than anything so disjointed as individual stories. Each of the chapters is connected and it is this connection of odd characters and their progeny that propels the reader nonstop from the early days of the colonies to the present. Hoffman creates dark characters: pain, bruise, emotional devastation and fate are woven like a continuing tapestry, passed from generation to generation. The seeds of all the characters, no matter from where they may be speaking (from the Cape, Boston, London, etc) all are firmly planted in the sweet peas, nettles and bramble that surround the sturdy house that makes the title. Here are witching, blackbirds that become white like ghosts, the ocean, and every type of family dysfunctional unit imaginable. BLACKBIRD HOUSE is not unlike the magical realism of our Latin American writers, but with a thoroughly American twist that makes it even more delicious! An excellent book, this!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first Alice Hoffman novel, and I definitely will read some more of her work. I really enjoyed this book. The book expands over two and a half centuries and follows people and families that occupy a home and land in Massachusetts. The chapters, though, not really a continuation of the previous chapter, really flow. Highly recommend, and the study questions in the back provide for some more thought.
BethanyLeah More than 1 year ago
Another fascinating book from Alice Hoffman!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would never of guessed the content by the cover. It has a kind of mysterious feel to it. It made me cling to the binding all day. I love how it all revolves around one thing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not think I would like this book as much as I did. I have never read anything by Alice Hoffman but I'm a fan now. Blackbird House is a wonderful novel with great characters.
Anonymous 22 days ago
It reads like poetry with rich descriptions that reach all the senses.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful and engaging read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Haunting stories. Many sad but beautiful.
klarsenmd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. Whimsically enchanting. Touching and tragic. This book meld many stories of the various inhabitants of Blackbird house over the course of several centuries. A wonderful piece of literature.
Gerri007 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although I am not a fan of short stories, the 12 stories, connected by all taking place in the same Cape Cod farmhouse over the course of many generations caught & kept my attention from the first. The characters are richly colored & very diverse in character and circumstances but love is a central theme in all their lives. The hints of magic, ghosts and witchcraft at times add a sinister quality to some of the stories.I would recommend this book as a good read
jlrobinson99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really like Alice Hoffman, but I don't (often) really like short story collections. Unless they hang together, united by a common element. This short story collection by Alice Hoffman hangs together (united by a house/property) so I really liked it. ;)
chmessing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just picked this one up at the library, so no expectations. A quick, easy read over the holidays that follows snippets of the lives of numerous people in a small coastal Maine town who have an association with one particular house/farm.
knittingfreak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this book. Alice Hoffman is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I was so immersed in the reading that I didn't want to take the time to stop and take notes or even mark favorite passages. So, I know I won't even be able to come close to doing the book justice. Hopefully, my profuse gushing will be enough to entice you to read it. Then again, it may simply want to make you scream. Blackbird house is a book of connected short stories. But instead of being connected by a particular character or characters, these stories are connected over a couple hundred years by a house.The house is located in the remote reaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The house truly seems to be another character in the stories, sometimes the main character. For some, it is a dream come true. For others, it is a refuge. For still others, it is a place to hide. Of course, I liked some stories more than others, but I can honestly say that there is not one story that I didn't like, which is rare for me. As with most all of Hoffman's books, there is an element of magical realism. Sometimes this element doesn't always work for me, but Hoffman makes it work every single time. I never question it. Again, as with a lot of her writing, there is often a darkness to the stories in this collection.The Witch of Truro is probably my favorite story. It's about Ruth, a young woman, who lives alone after her mother and father die of smallpox. Tragedy finds her again when her house burns down and she's left with literally nothing but her milk cows. She takes to living right on the beach until the women of the small town can stand it no longer. They put a plan into action. They begin by bringing her food and befriending her. After a while, they convince her to be the cook for Lysander Wynn who survived a storm at sea years earlier. Both Ruth and Lysander have been beaten up by life and are pretty much loners who end up finding some comfort from each other.Everything that happens to these families in Blackbird House over the years makes me wish that I lived in an older home. I would love to think about the people who lived there before me. However, we built our house, so I can only hope that hundreds of years from now, someone may think about the original inhabitants of their home and wonder what our life was like.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An absolute favorite of mine. I thought 'how strange' when I first started it but it might be one of my very favorites of hers and I am SUCH an Alice Hoffman fan. Anything I read of hers becomes my 'bible' while I am reading it.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
the way the stories all connect together to become one whole is wonderful.
callista83 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Alice Hoffman's books that I've read that I didn't rate 4 stars or higher.

The premise is good, seeing the different people who live in one house over a period of two hundred years. However there were so many characters that I found it hard to follow who was who. I enjoyed it when the next set of people were somehow related to the previous set. When it seemed the next set of people were completely unrelated and had just moved in somehow, I didn't like it as much. For example, we go from Ruby and Garnet and their mom to Lysander and there is no indication of where Lysander came from. It would have been better if a descendant of Ruby or Garnet had moved into the house. Also there were a few story lines I felt should have been explained better such as those of Vincent Hadley and Rosalyn Brooks and Husband.

Maybe it's just me and how I read things because a lot of people have given more positive reviews of this book. Don't get me wrong, I did like it and I had trouble putting it down but it was just a little too confusing for me.
Rhinoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A series of short stories by the wonderful Alice Hoffman all set in or around the same isolated house. It is originally build by a husband for his wife and two sones. They plan on starting a farm and a garden when he is lost at sea along with their two young children. The youngest son's pet blackbird who refused to fly escapes and makes it back home, but has turned white during the ordeal. The house is not the only consistent aspect in the tales as the house passes through families and generations. A ghostly white blackbird is often seen and there are themes of love and loss. Sadly many of the characters become orphans or lose their children. They are all beautiful and moving tales. One that really stayed with me was of a woman who loses her parents and home in a fire. She takes to living on the beach until some of the local women interfere and place her with the crippled blacksmith to keep his house. As time goes by she learns to trust and opens her heart again. She is gifted with a peach tree which is another constant in the tales that follow. Very highly recommended to anyone who likes great prose with a fairy tale lilt to it.
DebR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A while back my friend Dee discovered an extra copy of ¿Blackbird House¿ by Alice Hoffman and sent it to me saying I¿d like it. I loved the cover and thought it sounded really good, so I dove right in and finished the first half of the book before the day was over. And then I paused.I have to admit, at first I thought Dee¿s normally-powerful book matchmaking abilities might have failed her. I mean, obviously it captured my interest, considering how quickly I moved through it. And I found a lot of the writing and imagery really beautiful. But I found myself getting really frustrated because the cover (and most reviews I read) referred to it as ¿A Novel¿ and I was trying to read it as a novel, only to find that just as I was really getting interested in a character and their story, that story would end and the character would never be seen or heard from again. It was like speed dating without any way to contact my favorites and ask them if they¿d like to meet for coffee.But then I backed off and thought about it and took another look at what I¿d read so far and thought ¿Aaaah, ok, I get it.¿ No matter what the cover says, this is NOT a novel. This is a short story collection. The stories are linked by a location - the ¿Blackbird House¿ of the title - and by certain recurring elements, but still, really - Short. Stories. And while that may seem like a nitpicky sort of distinction to some, it made all the difference in the world to my enjoyment of the book.In novels I want to get to know the characters, and the plot has to (really, seriously MUST) be driven by those characters. The story has to happen the way it happens because those things are what those people would do in those circumstances, and different people - different characters - would make an entirely different story.I know not everyone agrees with that. I realize that some novels are plot-driven and the writer moves the characters around like puppets on a stage, but I don¿t LIKE those books. Don¿t spend 100 pages convincing me that your main character is one person and then have them do something that the character you just described would neverEVER do just because you happen to need Aunt Maude killed off to move the plot along and can¿t figure out who else should do it.But in short stories, there¿s no time to get to know anyone in depth. What we see is a small slice of life. We don¿t know what came before. We don¿t know what happens after. We don¿t always know what made someone who they are or why they make the choices they do, and I can deal with that in a short story in a way that I just can¿t in a novel.So I started over and read each story as if it stood alone and then I could see exactly why Dee recommended it. As a short story collection, it¿s magical.
xicanti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful, amazing book. I didn't expect to like it, but I went on to read it in a matter of hours. Hoffman's writing is lovely; I look forward to reading more of her stuff.
storyjunkie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a series of short stories centered on a house, and the lives that touch that house. Connected to witches and otherworldly happenings, the house is witness to the very human joys and struggles of generations of people. Quietly powerful, poignant, the impact of the stories caught me by surprise, some days after I'd finished the book.
terena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The stories are around one place and the people who lived there over 200 years.
mmhubbell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Generally I have a problem with Alice Hoffman's books. I love the themes of magic and fairy tale symbolism in everyday life -- really love that aspect -- but in contrast with that magic, the writing seems flat, stiff, one dimensional. Perhaps Hoffman intends this contrast, but it does not work for me. This was by far my favorite of her books. Maybe because the central character was a house and the human characters came and went. The graphic symbolism is lovely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A collection of short stories about the generations of people who owned a cottage on cape cod. The stories start in colonial times and continue to modern times. The stories often leave it up to the reader to finish in their own way. Many refer back to a previous family that lived there and even answer questions that had not originally been answered. A good read. A little weird but also very interesting.