The Foretelling, by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman has written a good deal of books, abortion including one that was made into a movie (Practical Magic) and another (Here on Earth) that was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Apparently two of her other books were made into movies as well, and she wrote the script for a movie called Independence Day from 1983 (obviously not the one starring Will Smith). She lives in Boston; apparently five or six of her novels are for young adults, and she has even written a few for children.

Rain is the daughter of the queen of a tribe of women that may or may not be the Amazons. However, since she was a child born of rape, her mother pays very little attention to her. Their world is a nomadic one; they move around during the summer and, very often, have to fight. The land they control involves a river, and quite often male-dominated groups see the women as easy prey. Rain, though, has been preparing herself to be queen, which is difficult, as her mother doesn’t seem to want her to be around. Will she be able to succeed?

This is a very short book; it’s only 167 pages, and about the size of a paperback (although it’s hardback). It’s also, curiously enough, printed in sepia tones on an off-white paper. While it’s an interesting effect, it looked slightly wrong to my eyes. It’s also written in first-person, but at least past-tense, and has a very curiously legend style. None of this is my preferred style, I have to admit. The book also has absolutely no humor to it, and I’m generally not fond of books that don’t have SOMETHING to lighten the tone. There were a few things about the story that held my interest, though.

First, the setting was unique. I don’t think I’ve read anything set among the Amazons of legend, let alone among a group that is much more likely to be historically accurate. They live in the steppes and tame wild horses; they also keep bees. Second, the author paced the book fairly well. Although there were no moments of lightness in the story, the arc of battles and Rain’s life was well-done. I do appreciate Ms. Hoffman’s skill as a writer; the moments of action versus inaction balanced. Third, there were a few characters who interested me. Rain herself wasn’t my favorite, but she had a step-sister, Io, who was intriguing, and there was a smith, who was male, who also interested me. The smith didn’t show up very often, but when he did, I enjoyed his presence.

Although the book was well-done, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I thought the symbolism was a little heavy-handed, and I didn’t like the unrelenting weight of the tone. Obviously a book titled The Foretelling can’t precisely be comfort reading, but I don’t know that I would ever re-read it. Readers might enjoy it if they’re interested at a look into a culture that has not been explored very often; I think it’s the kind of novel one would have to be in a specific mood for, though. 2/5 stars for my enjoyment, and 4/5 stars for overall quality — that averages to 3/5 stars.

2 thoughts on “The Foretelling, by Alice Hoffman”

  1. I remember reading this one awhile ago, and I had pretty much the same impression you did. Interesting idea… but, yes, a little heavy-handed.

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