NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

4/5 stars Haunting and beautiful..., June 27, 2010

This review is from: The Third Angel: A Novel (Paperback)

I've read many of Alice Hoffman's novels and each is a story that lingers long after the last page has been turned and the book closed. This one is particularly haunting and I've found myself doing something I rarely do -- rereading the book from the opening chapter. Skimming to a particular segment and then leafing through pages of one of the parts of this novel. The book is divided into three segments, telling the stories from the viewpoint of three very different women during significant events of their lives. The setting is London, in fact at a hotel called Lion Park -- where people go when they want complete privacy -- and the time periods when these events take place are 1999, 1966, and 1952. The book seems to be in a style such that it can be read forward or backward -- and give the reader a different perspective or reaction to the story because of what the reader discovers when starting "at the beginning" with the oldest character, Lucy Green, first.

The three women at the heart of the story are connected though it's difficult to piece that together during the first read through of this novel. Each experiences something about love that devastates her. Coming to terms with the heartbreak and the loss is the question each seeks to answer: is love simple or is it complicated?

Maddy Heller -- falls in love with the man her sister is to marry.

Frieda Lewis -- falls in love with a heroin-addicted wanna be rock star who is in love with another woman.

Lucy Green -- is unwittingly involved in a love triangle that impairs her ability to believe in anything.

At the heart of these interconnected stories is the concept of The Third Angel. What does this angel represent? Frieda's father, a physician, tells her that there are three angels who ride with him in the back of his car on the way to see patients. The Angel of Life and The Angel of Death are self-explanatory; and then there's the Third Angel that represents humanity, love, suffering, redemption, faith, and hope. It's the angel, in disguise on earth, that helps human beings "embrace the transforming nature of love."

This is not a happy or uplifting book in many ways. It is a little depressing and brought me to tears sometimes while reading. The prose is beautiful and Hoffman can certainly turn a phrase that is, at times, poetic. The book, however, has a lot of depth and the stories that the women tell -- of their encounters with The Third Angel -- will haunt you. I recommend it.


  1. Would this be a good one for more advanced readers in my class library? I know teen girls like some of her books.

  2. I don't really think that this is a teen book in any way.