Third Angel (Review)


The Third Angel
Alice Hoffman, 2008

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
May 2011

Alice Hoffman weaves her magic once again, this time in three interlocking stories about the inexorable power of love—and where, if we're not careful, love can lead us.

Set in London, the novel's central axis—around which the three stories spin—is the Lion Park Hotel. Every night at 10:30 a disembodied voice kicks up a ruckus, the ghost of a man who met a violent end in Room 707. The haunting permeates the other two stories but isn't resolved until the third.

The novel opens in 1999 with Park Lion guest Maddy Heller, who has come to London to take part in her sister's wedding...and to seduce the groom-to-be. Her sister Allie seems to have fallen out of love with her fiance but stubbornly refuses to call off the wedding.

The second story takes place 13 years earlier and revolves around 19-year-old Frieda. In open rebellion against her parents' expectations, Frieda takes a job as a cleaning girl in the hotel, where she falls in love with hotel guest Jamie, a doomed, second-rate rock star.

The final story is set in 1952 when 12-year-old Lucy accompanies her parents from the US to London for the wedding of her stepmother's sister. Lucy, a precocious but sullen and lonely youngster, becomes involved in a love triangle that leads to tragedy.

Hoffman, a storyteller of prodigious gifts, manages to overcome some heavy-handed use of symbolism, parallels, and coincidence—to unify three disparate stories into a marvelous fable about love. Some reviewers have called this one of Hoffman's best, although I'm not quite so sure.

Yet the novel maintains its tight grip from start to finish—causing one to ponder the human heart in all of its obsessiveness, fear, and ultimate goodness. I think there will be terrific book club discussions surrounding The Third Angel.

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