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The Blue Diary - Alice Hoffman

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3 Reviews

Author: Alice Hoffman / Genre: Fiction

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    3 Reviews
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      27.09.2009 12:25
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      Not recommended.

      Jorie and Ethan Ford are the perfect couple; still in love after 13 years of marriage, one 11-year-old son and all are well liked and respected within their small-town Massachusetts community.
      However, all it not what is seems and soon Ethan is exposed as a liar, rapist and murderer when a young girls phone call names him in a crime that happened 13 years previously. Nothing will be the same for Ethan and his family, the whole community is shaken; Jorie and her son especially have to try and come to terms with the fact that the man they love is not what he says he is.

      "A moving, poignant, powerful tale about love, death, friendship and family...Blue Diary gently gets under your skin. You'll be hooked." (Daily Mirror)

      I thought the premise of this story was intriguing; all families have secrets and no one is perfect, but I found the idea of a seemingly perfect family who is well liked and respected holding such a dark and terrifying secret impossible to resist and I was curious to see how it would be portrayed and tackled.

      Hoffman doesn't take long to delve into the heart of the story, which on the plus side means that there is no long and laborious lead up to the "exciting" part of the book, but it also means that I was unable to gather much sympathy or understanding of Ethan's character before his past crime is revealed to the community.

      This could have been what the author intended; that the reader only sympathise with Jorie and her son Collie, but I don't think this was her intention at all. The beginning of the story explains how Ehtan is a volunteer fire fighter, how he helps on the children's soccer team, how he rescued people from fires and generally serves his community well and is an excellent husband and father. Although I understand that having long chapters describing his heroic acts in the community would be boring, I did feel that the author brushed over these facts and I wasn't able to gain a thorough understanding of Ethan as a "pillar of the community." And therefore when he is arrested very early on in the book, I didn't feel as torn as I should have been about his good behaviour over the last 13 years.


      Aside from the author delving straight in to the main bones of the story, I felt the rest of the book was quite slow moving and didn't develop at all after Ethan was arrested. The author spent some time looking at the developments from Jorie and Collie's perspective and lots of time was spent looking at events from Collie's best friends perspective, but unfortunately I felt this was really slow moving and quite uninteresting. There were other characters in the story which also came in to play, loveable attorney Barney who has a crush on Jorie's best friend Charlotte, and this proves a nice side story but one that would not be missed in the grand scheme of things.

      The most interesting character in the story was Kat. Kat is Collies best friend, an 11 year old girl who is constantly living in the shadow of her older and very beautiful sister Rosarie. Kat is also the girl who informs the police of Ethans whereabouts after watching a programme on the crime. A lot of the book is told from her point of view, and I loved her naiveté, guts and vunerability and loved the developing relationship between her and Collie.

      The more interesting parts of the story come from the flash backs of Ethan's "previous" life when he committed his crime. I won't go into details as this really is the best part of the story, providing an interesting and shocking tale, which makes up for the mostly bland story. However, even through this description, and of how Ethan views himself in his past life and his new life, I still didn't really feel a flicker of emotion or sympathy for him, just shock and horror at what he had done and the pain he had caused those around him.

      One other interesting aspect of this story is some of the descriptions. There is a section of the book where Jorie and Charlotte are sat with each other discussing the events of their lives and the fact that Charlotte has cancer. Some of the descriptions used during this section were really beautiful and stuck with me after I'd finished the story. In fact, the most interesting and heart wrenching parts of the story often came from their friendship and Charlottes battle with cancer. When juxtaposed against Ethan being visited by the young and very beautiful Rosarie Williams in prison, Charlotte and Jorie get all of my sympathy, whilst Ethan is pretty much forgotten.

      It is pretty hard to describe it this way, and it must seem strange that I'm feeling that I should sympathise with someone who has committed such heinous crimes, but It feels that this book is supposed to blur this boundary somewhat by the way Ethan is originally portrayed. It still stands however in my eyes that the author failed portraying this properly and the book ended leaving me more than a little disappointed. Referring back to my quote from "The Daily Mail" at the beginning of this review," I can say for me, this quote could not be further from the truth. I found the story quite tedious at times, and I certainly wasn't hooked. No recommendation from me!

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        25.05.2009 12:29
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        A tale of a need for forgiveness!

        This was a book that I received from readitswapit.co.uk so really did not know what to expect. My usual way of picking books is to look at the cover / author and see what attracts me. One downside of swapping books is that this is not possible!

        I chose to select this book as the back cover talked about - "what if everything that you know is a lie" - sounded exciting and it did turn out to be a great read.

        Plot
        Without giving too much away (the key fact is on the back cover!) the story revolves around a couple living in small town mid west USA. Ethan and Jorine and their son Collie are central figures in the town. Ethan is a volunteer fire fighter, local hero and all round nice guy. Or is he - you quickly discover (and again fact is on the back cover so not a spoiler!) that actually he committed a terrible rape and murder 15 years ago.

        He is discovered whan a young girl spots him on the american version of Crime Watch and turns him in.

        The story then focusses very strongly on his wife Jorine and son Collie as they struggle to deal with a man who has lived a lie for 15 years.

        Characters
        Ethan: A small town hero with a terrible past. He is an interesting character and perhaps because the story is not told from his point of view I struggled to feel too sorry for him. I could not tell if the author intended you to sympathise with him or not.

        Jorine: Having lived with a murderer / rapist for 15 years without guessing you expect her to be a naive and easily fooled person. The story is mainly told from her point of view so, almost automatically you sympathise with her. She surprised me with her depth of character though and I really ended up liking her.

        Kat: The teenage girl who turned Ethan in - best friends with his son Collie and an interesting character. Some chapters are told from her point of view which makes it interesting.

        Other characters include Collie - Ethan and Jorine's 13 year old son who struggles with his father's past, Charlotte who is Jorine's best friend, Rosarie - Kat's sister and James - the brother of the girl murdered by Ethan.

        Style
        The story is told from the point of view of Jorine and Kat with one section being told from Ethan's point of view. I found that this really worked as it stopped the action being too focussed on any one character.

        The author is very descriptive - you are really transported back to where all the events took place - you are also made to understand the characters although you are never really privy to their thoughts.

        Issues: THe main issue covered by the book is one of forgiveness - can a good man make a mistake even if that is rape and murder and be let off?

        I am not going to ruin the story line by telling you!

        What is right with it? I loved the descriptive tone of the book and the fact that the story is told through the eyes of several characters. It keeps the plot moving alone nicely.

        What is wrong with it? You never really get to understand the characters fully, this may be a deliberate ploy by the author or just a failure to develop the characters fully. Being generous I would say the former!

        overall: A tear jerker - certain bits made me cry, there are few laughs in this book and the issues are certainly fairly heavy. Would not recommend this for a holiday read - but great for a long train journey on a work trip or when you fancy something a bit more serious than Chick lit!

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          18.05.2007 17:54
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          A novel about a women who discovers she has been living with a murderer.

          The Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman is a novel set in middle America. It tells the story of Jorie and Ethan Ford. They have had an idyllic marriage for thirteen years, their garden overflows with fruit and vegetables and they are loved by all their neighbours. Mostly because Ethan is a volunteer firefighter and has saved many of his neighbours lives, and he is also a respected and trusted carpenter who has remodelled many of his neighbours houses. However, their world is shattered when Ethan is accused of a brutal murder that occurred over ten years ago. The novel follows the fall out from this accusation and its effect on Ethan’s family and friends.

          I found the style of this novel a bit too descriptive. Hoffman loves to describe the surroundings and in particular the natural world encompassing the character. This is ok to some extent, and I can see the comparison she is often making about the natural world and humanity, but I sometimes found it took away from the story. For example “The damp scent of evening falling, the heavy August air, the song of red-winged blackbirds, alighting in the fields around town by the thousands, to feed on wild rice and fight for their territory’ I just think this is a bit too much description, however I know some people have referred to her work as ‘lyrical’ so maybe if you like that sort of thing this book would be for you.

          I found the characters difficult to like to begin with, but as the novel progressed I found I cared more for Jorie that I thought I would. She is basically living everyone’s worst nightmare; what if everything you trusted turned out to be false? At the start of the novel she seems a little too perfect, which is probably why she is difficult to like, but as you see her world fall apart you realise she is human after all and begin to sympathise with her. The character I found easiest to relate to was Kat Williams. She is friends with Jorie and Ethan’s son Collie (where these names come from I have no idea LOL!) and is struggling to come to terms with the death of her father. I would have liked there to have been more of her story in the novel as she was a likeable character and her struggle with her father’s suicide, and trying to help her friend Collie was very touching. By the end of the novel she has matured into a compassionate and wise young woman and the transformation was fascinating to read.

          Overall, I have given this novel 3 stars because I found it difficult to engage with the characters and thought the descriptive language was off-putting at times. However, by the end of the novel I was glad I had read it as it does make you question how much you can really know people and how would you react if everything you believed in turned out to be false.

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        • Product Details

          Hoffman writes from on high, a storytelling goddess who drenches the earth with flower-opening sunshine one day, only to bring on the most abysmal gloom the next. She enchants and she riles, and her powers are extraordinary, although the overture to her fourteenth novel is awfully sweet. Ethan and Jorie, gorgeous and madly in love after 13 years of marriage, are just too horribly perfect. Ethan is a carpenter, baseball coach, and volunteer fireman. Jorie is a homemaker and a gifted gardener, and their 12-year-old son, Collie, is handsome and good. It's enough to make you puke, and that's exactly Hoffman's intention because this is a make-believe life that has run its course. The girl-next-door, the younger, funny-looking one named Kat, not her exquisite and coldhearted sister Rosarie, misses her father, who committed suicide, and has never trusted Collie's, so when she recognizes an old photograph of Ethan shown on a most-wanted TV show, she makes the fateful call and then watches in shock while her neighbors' lives collapse like a house that looks fine from the outside but has been consumed by termites until it's no more than a shell.