Monday, 2 September 2013

Book Review: The Third Angel - Alice Hoffman

Synopsis - The story opens in London on the present day, when an envious sibling comes to her sister's wedding.  Their mother's illness casts a shadow over their childhood and both Madeline and Allie are still searching for something missing in their lives.  Back in the swinging Sixties, the bridegroom's conventional English mother, Frieda, behaves in a wholly unconventional way, and the ghosts of that era still haunt all their lives and a Knightsbridge hotel.  Even before that, the seeds of tragedy are sown in the Fifties, when  twelve year old Lucy first visits London and the same hotel.  Precocious, impatient, wise beyond years, Lucy becomes a go-between for two star-crossed lovers and then holds herself agonisingly responsible for what happens...

Review - A poignantly, beautiful story told going backwards in time.  Well, it starts in the present day ending with the part set in the Fifties, where it all began.  What running themes carry across the book?  Parental relationships, sick mothers, abandoning fathers, sibling friendships and rivalry, lovers, death and most importantly the Lion Park Hotel in Knightsbridge and Mrs Ridge.

In the first part we have two sisters, the younger whose jealousy towards her sister nearly ruins their relationship.  Their mother had cancer during their childhood, their father leaves because he cannot cope.  Now Allie, the eldest is getting married to a man who is terminally ill.

In part two, we see Frieda, the groom's mother cope with her life.  Frieda has a close relationship with her father until he leaves her mother for the bereaved wife of a patient.  When her father moves on she cannot deal with this and she becomes closer to her mother.  Frieda works at a Knightsbridge hotel and meets a struggling musician engaged to be married to one of two wealthy, very close, heroine addicted sisters.

The final part of the story is devoted to Lucy, the mother of the sisters in part one.  Lucy's mother has passed  away and Lucy has come to London with her father and his new wife.  After they have booked into the hotel, Lucy escapes her father and his prickly wife, wandering off to Hyde Park where she talks to two sisters, both very blonde and very close.   Later on, after a tragic event, Lucy becomes ill and is treated by a doctor.

Without giving too much of the story away, I hope I have managed to give you the gist of some of the pieces which link these people together in far more ways than one.

In real life, they say the world is not that big and in many ways that is true.  How many people do you know who are connected in more ways than one or who frequently pop up in your life over the years for differing reasons?  That has certainly been the case for me on occasion.  4*

ISBN 978-0-701-18272-4

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