From the great May storm in 1778 when John Hadley and his sons slip the British blockade off the coast of Massachusetts only to disappear at sea, the lives of the inhabitants of the wooden farmhouse on the cape, stranded amid fields of sweet peas and wild fruit vines and red pear trees, coil and weave around each other, right up to the present. ...
From the great May storm in 1778 when John Hadley and his sons slip the British blockade off the coast of Massachusetts only to disappear at sea, the lives of the inhabitants of the wooden farmhouse on the cape, stranded amid fields of sweet peas and wild fruit vines and red pear trees, coil and weave around each other, right up to the present. Young Isaac Hadley is more interested in his pet blackbird and the star charts in The Practical Navigator than in helping to build the house; and Violet, a century later, with her stained face and her own ghostly bird, reads the same book, and finds that it's easy enough to trick a learned man, though harder to catch one...Larkin Howard is ready to sell his soul to buy the farm, but meets a woman who hears the whales cry on the beach; while in another century the young Farrell boy sees more than he should on a snowy night- and the pond out back is still dark and unforgiving beneath its deceptively golden lilies. By the 1950s, the farmhouse is part of a community of steady men and wayward boys, and women who make jam but still feel the ghostly breath of Cora Hadley, with her green fingers. As a second century draws to a close and summer visitors from the cities take over the countryside, the house can barely hold all its ghosts, but the tragedies are not over...With a sense of place that is uncanny, and vividly real characters whose lives don't run smooth and whose stories loop together across space and time, this is a remarkable, haunting and accomplished work from a favourite novelist - an irresistible fiction about a house for all seasons.
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Publishers Weekly, 2004-06-21 Prolific novelist Hoffman (The Probable Future; Blue Diary; etc.) offers 12 lush and lilting interconnected stories, all taking place in the same Cape Cod farmhouse over the course of generations. Built during British colonial days by a man who dies tragically on a final fishing trip, Blackbird House is home, in the following generation, to a man who lost his leg to a giant halibut. In the late 19th century, Blackbird inhabitant Violet Cross has a brief affair with a Harvard scholar who inevitably betrays her; in the story that follows, she pushes her son, Lion West, to Harvard in 1908, which in turn launches him to life-and early death-in England. Lion's orphaned son, Lion West Jr., serves in World War II and meets a German-Jewish woman spirited enough to stand up to his possessive grandmother Violet. Hoffman's symbols are lovingly presented and polished: the 10-year-old boy who drowned with his father in the first story sets free a pet blackbird, who returns, now all white, to live with the boy's mother; in the last two stories, a 10-year-old boy blames a white crow for his mischief, and, a generation later, that boy's grown-up sister meets a 10-year-old boy who makes her reconsider selling Blackbird House. Fire, water, milk, pears, halibut-these, too, play important symbolic and sometimes almost magical roles. This may not be the subtlest of literary devices, but Hoffman's lyrical prose weaves an undeniable spell. Agent, Elaine Markson. (Aug. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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