One of the librarians at the local library recommended Alice Hoffman‘s “The River King” to me specifically, in addition to a general recommendation of the author. Usually this librarian’s advice is spot-on, and I can see why should would suggest Alice Hoffman, based on the criteria I told her I was looking for at the time.
This is the fourth book I’ve read from this author. I enjoyed “Practical Magic” and “Blackbird House,” though not in a ‘something to write home about’ sort of way. “Fortune’s Daughter” left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Even so, there is something compelling about the author’s writing style that keeps me from giving up on her entirely.
The prevailing feeling of this book was one of melancholy. I had a difficult time staying the course. There was just a gloominess that overshadowed every event, and it felt as though the color had been pulled out of the world the author created. It seemed to always be raining, and even though water was a theme of the story, it felt so dismal.
I really don’t mean to be unduly critical, and I don’t say this to be cruel, but honestly seemed like the author had been deeply depressed while she was writing it. That sense of bleakness, whatever the cause, poured out onto every page.
The story was intriguing, and though it took a while, it finally took on that tone of magical realism that I was looking for, though not in the playful, intriguing way of other books within that genre. The problem was that nothing felt good to me in the book. Even when things happened that should have been positive, happy events, there was no real pleasure in it. In the field of psychology, this is called “anhedonia,” and it’s a common occurrence in clinical depression, which is why the book called depression to mind.
Alice Hoffman is a skilled writer. She can create a complete world with its own rules, one that makes sense, and she can make you believe in her stories. In that sense, and in the sense of there being well-developed characters and an interesting plot, “The River King” is technically good. I just couldn’t truly enjoy it, because it gave me no pleasure to read it.
I will, however, keep trying more of her books, because I believe in her. At this point, I am very much open to suggestions.