The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman is a quirky, modern fairy tale taking its inspiration from the Brothers Grimm. A young girl wishes her mother dead, and then when it happens, she lets it ruin her life. She hardens her heart and is determined to never let anyone get close again. She spends her life in New Jersey as a librarian dealing in cold facts, where only policeman Jack Lyons seems to understand her and satisfy her sexual needs, but that’s as far as that relationship goes – she’s emotionally dead inside.
Then she moves to Florida with her brother and is even more alone in this hot and humid state. One day she gets struck by lightning which she survives but is left with all sorts of physical difficulties, including not being able to see the colour red anymore. She hears about another lightning survivor who was pronounced dead but came back to life, and is drawn to seek him out. Lazarus Jones is her complete opposite, a man alive with heat. They become obsessed with each other – the ice queen and fire king, and begin an affair, but it is clear that he is hiding something, and she is in danger of him thawing her heart …
Not a word is wasted in this wonderful novel, yet your emotions are put through the wringer continuously. First of all, in sadness and frustration for this un-named woman who has let a childhood fantasy ruin her life, then when she finally learns to take a chance with love, you feel real happiness for her, it is so great when she lets go. Her life is a real emotional rollercoaster, but erotic too – her affair with Lazarus Jones is sizzling! But the thing that got to me most was her loss of red, the colour of lifeblood pulsing, the shade of her dress that so affects all who see it, except her – she doesn’t know its hue – I can’t imagine not having that powerful colour in my life.
A truly fantastic novel to end the year’s reading on. 10/10
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The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman, Vintage paperback, 224 pages.