07 September 2023

Review: The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman

The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman book cover

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Mia Jacob was raised in a puritanical cult known as the Community in Massachusetts where contact with the outside world is non existent and books are forbidden. Selling produce from their farm in town, Mia sneaks into the local library and is met by a kind librarian who lets her borrow books, guessing she's from the nearby Community.

I read this during the time I was also watching the TV adaptation of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart based on the book by Holly Ringland, and saw so many connections. In particular, libraries providing a safe haven and refuge of sorts and the books inside opening doors to a new life, or helping the reader cope with their existing one.

The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman is a book of two halves, first, the tough life at the Community, and second Mia's love for The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. You don't need to have read the book to enjoy The Invisible Hour, and it isn't a retelling. I read and enjoyed The Scarlet Letter in 2008, yet Mia takes it to the next level and falls in love with the author, obsessively learning all about his life and even spending time at his grave.

In the second half of The Invisible Hour, Mia's love takes her back through the centuries to the time of Nathaniel Hawthorne, before he wrote The Scarlet Letter. I enjoyed Mia's dilemma about time travel, her observations, fears about changing the future and jeopardising the writing of the novel that changed her life. The heartbreak of love when measured against the harsh reality of the day, or the past, was also convincing.
"Nathaniel laughed at such nonsense, and he never told his friends about the curious things that happened to him, for it appeared that he was fated to have an appointment with the forces of magic. Twice he had seen ghosts, a matter he kept to himself." Page 132
The nature of love and the complications of time travel were foremost in my mind while reading this, as I was also watching the new season of Outlander based on the series by Diana Gabaldon. In that series similar questions arise, the grief and pull of separating years, the fear of altering the future and the desire of two people to be together at all costs.

The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman is a love letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne and a short and quick read. Hoffman's characters are an excellent example of the ways in which reading and stories can change your life and transport you elsewhere and on this, I heartily agree.

My Rating:

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