17 July 2007

Book Review: Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

New Year’s Reading Resolutions #17

Skylight Confessions On the night Arlyn Singer’s father dies, she decides that her destiny is about to arrive. And it does, in the form of a lost architecture student. John Moody’s attempts to abandon Arlyn fail, and he finds himself married to her and living in the house of glass designed by his father. Instead of the ideal futures each had imagined, they are left with unhappiness and infidelity, and eventually death. Years later, Meredith Weiss follows Arlyn’s ghost to a house falling into chaos. She is swiftly hired as nanny to well-behaved Blanca and rebellious Sam, who gets all the blame for such events as broken dishes and trails of ash. The Glass Slipper saw the end of Arlyn’s dreams, but it proves to be the key to Meredith’s. Once she has gone, Sam and Blanca also make their escapes, one more successfully than the other, until another death draws the remnants of the scattered family back together.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this book. On the one hand, I wound up skimming swiftly through it just to get it done. On the other, I suspect that some parts of it - particularly Meredith and the magical strand of pearls - will stick in my memory for many books to come. I liked Meredith best of all the characters, probably because I related to her most: someone whose dreams have gone down the drain and who has chosen to divorce herself from the society of others. And the pearls - shifting colour to reflect the nature of the wearer - added a nice touch of magic. But otherwise the charm soon wore off. Something about the writing style that I couldn’t quite put my finger on created an air of detachment, so that I never felt close to any of the other characters. While I liked the book’s theory that ghosts can become attached to a time or a person rather than a place was interesting, I didn’t think much of its other theory: that trails of ash are a sure indication of a haunting. In all the tales of the supernatural I’ve read I’ve never come across that one and I’m tempted to believe Hoffman pulled it out of thin air. And I was irked by the repeated references to Arlyn’s belief in her father’s tales of a race of people in Connecticut who had wings, but who only showed them at the very last moment, in order to escape certain disaster. I know her father died when she was still quite young, but surely by seventeen she should have realised that he was telling tall tales? While Meredith was around it was reasonably interesting, but otherwise it was just an easy way to pass the time.

Rating: C

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

I reviewed this one for Elle magazine's Readers Circle and was very disappointed. I enjoyed several other of her books, but found myself rolling my eyes quite a bit as I read through this one. Not her best work by far.

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776