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Skylight Confessions - Alice Hoffman

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Author: Alice Hoffman / Genre: Fiction

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      09.11.2007 11:08
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      A modern fairytale?

      I came across this book when it popped up on my book group’s reading list. A little bit of research showed that people had compared it to the Time Traveller’s Wife which I had loved, although such comparisons are not always a good thing as they lead to higher expectations followed by the inevitable disappointment. This is the first book I have read by Alice Hoffman.

      The book is unusual to some degree in that it does not have any chapters, however it is divided into three parts.

      Arlyn, our heroine of the first part, grew up in a remote town with her father and upon his death saw the arrival of stranger John Moody as a sign of her destiny and she follows him to his family home in New Haven, Connecticut. The house is all made of glass and is nicknamed The Glass Slipper locally. Initially refusing to admit she may have made a mistake with her move, Arlyn throws herself into her life with an increasingly distant husband and her beloved children, hoping one day they will all escape. She begins an affair with the window cleaner but puts her children first.

      We later meet Meredith who is strangely drawn to the family and lives for a while with them in the glass house, and tries to help Arlyn’s children. The oldest, Sam, has particularly lost his way, getting involved in drugs, whilst is young sister worships him from afar, struggling in her relationship with her father and step-mother.

      The third part is about Arlyn’s daughter Blanca who has moved away to London and become estranged from most of her family, she runs a bookshop that sells only fairytales. She has trouble sustaining relationships except with Meredith. There is also a fourth character that shares this part of the book with Blanca as the book reaches its conclusions in the lives of the Moody family.

      Any comparisons with The Time Traveller’s Wife is more subtle. The book does not feature any time traveling for a start! However the characters do seem to share one trait and that is the feeling of being lost. A lot of the characters in Skylight Confessions are lost for one reason or another, either by accident or design. The main characters are interesting and drawn sufficiently deeply that you could feel as if you could know them. However, you would be unlikely to ever know them because they are all so flawed in that they are withdrawn to the extent of being a bit odd and don’t seem to let people close to them which makes it almost impossible to relate to them. Arlyn, in particular, is so incredibly naïve it is rather frustrating, whilst Sam seems to have a Peter Pan like quality.

      The writing style is almost fairy-tale like, and personally it didn’t suit me, the characters seemed to exist in some slightly magical version of the real world that isn’t actually that magical (and in fact a nightmare for John Moody) outside of Hoffman’s slightly odd prose. Another thing that annoyed me slightly was the use of material objects like stones, glass and soot as euphemisms of some sort to depict the mood of the house. It was a bit too much, and stopped making sense. I would be quite annoyed at always finding soot in my house but the characters just took it in their stride. It seems Hoffman wanted to write some sort of modern fairytale, but I am not sure she actually succeeded.

      My hardback has an RRP of £12.99. There are offers on the web around the £8-9 mark. The paperback is published next February.

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