Winter is fast approaching and if you’re anything like me you reckon it’s going to be pretty cold. It feels natural to go into hibernation mode and wrap yourself up with warm clothes, warm blankets and eat substantial one pot meals sitting by a warm fire (or heatpump). But let’s be honest here, that can pile on the kilos.
I’ve just finished reading The Red Garden, the latest offering from Alice Hoffman. She’s one of my go-to authors; I can always rely on her to tell a satisfying story. Over the years the topics she writes about have become darker, but her words still retain a magical quality. Reading one of her novels or short story collections is like reading a fairytale by the Grimm Brothers. The pages are full of characters, events, and places both delightful and haunting.
The Red Garden is one of those novels made up of many different stories, seemingly separate but actually connected in subtle ways. Set in the fictional small town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, Hoffman takes you on a journey through time, introducing you to characters, some earthy, some ethereal, whose lives are intertwined by a shared history.
While this is not my favourite book of her’s (I think The Ice Queen wins that award), I did really enjoy it. Like all of Hoffman’s work, the plot was thoughtful and interesting. I liked how it took me back 300 years when Blackwell was first founded by a group of ill-prepared but daring pioneers, and then describes how the town evolves as houses are built, travelers put down roots, strangers fall in love, and so on. As time goes on, generations live and die, their past irrevocably linked to their children’s future.
Love Alice Hoffman, but read everything she’s written? Try these read-alikes:
Matariki is the Aotearoa new year according to the lunar calendar.
In this audio file Upoko of Ngai Tuahuriri Rakiihia Tau explains the importance of Matariki in terms of what it meant for the life of southern Māori, and puts it in the context of the year-long cycle of mahinga kai — gathering food and the necessities of life.