Thoughts on The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

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I loved Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth and I have come to expect lyrical prose and magical realism in her work. I am not a fan of magical realism as such but hers I gobble up like a plate of hot Top Ramen noodles (read the fragrance of childhood). Poetry, magic, fate everything I have never understood and can’t put into words, Alice Hoffman does it with ease like she has done it all her life, which she has, but it always takes me by surprise.

I usually steer clear of misery or negativity in pop culture unless I think I can handle it. And Alice Hoffman should be read when you can handle her prose. Her words pierce your soul. She wrings out emotions and feelings you never thought you had. The storyline is easy to follow but the themes are weighty. The Ice Queen deals with matters of life and death and everything in between that constitutes the business of living. She writes fairy tales for adults but don’t be fooled into thinking that it would be simple or straightforward.

I took the book with me when I was travelling but somehow I could sense it wasn’t the place for it and I read very little. And I didn’t want to read the book at breakneck speed because I wanted to inhabit the words of this book until I absorbed its essence.

Like many reviewers I agree there isn’t an extra word in The Ice Queen. She covers so much in 211 pages. It is a sentimental tale but the ending is unpredictable. At the centre of the story is an unlikeable protagonist – the unnamed narrator, who is a librarian and a lightning survivor. Something happened when she was a child and and she has allowed it to colour her entire life. Lightning has always fascinated me but this scared me, the damage it can do to your system if you have the misfortune to be struck by it. Her character changes in a fundamental way and she sees herself differently by the time the book ends and so did I. Alice Hoffman makes you feel for her and in spite of everything you root for her. Deep down we are all dreamers.

The Ice Queen is a book about life and death, and about love and hate. It is a book about secrets and their power to define us if we let them.

Secrets are only knowledge that hasn’t yet been uncovered… Therefore, they are not in fact secrets but only unrealized truth.

The Ice Queen is about all kinds of love – love between siblings (blood ties can’t be so easily dismissed), love between people who have survived the same thing, love between people who are married and their lives tied together in ways unimaginable and love that remains even when the object of affection has vanished into thin air. (Not literally true but I wanted to use it because I am feeling theatrical today!)

Feel lucky for what you have when you have it. Isn’t that the point? Happily ever after doesn’t mean happy forever. The ever after, what precisely was that? Your dreams, your life, your death, your everything. Was it the blank space that went on without us? The forever after we were gone?

The Ice Queen tells me things find their own way to fruition if it’s meant to be. And to have an open heart and appreciate the present. Nothing I didn’t know but how many of us actually live fully in the present?

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Pixar’s Inside Out

Have you ever wondered what goes on in somebody’s head? Inside Out began with this question. We are introduced to Riley (the protagonist) and her emotions. Riley is 11 and has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents. We see how the move affects her through her emotions, which have distinct personalities of their own.

Joy is yellow, thin and skipping with energy radiating happiness. Sadness is blue, fat with large eyes covered by large round glasses. She is always miserable and feels tired at the thought of doing anything (down in the dumps quite literally). She’s my favourite emotion, and contrary to her name, provided the audience with a lot of laughs. Fear is thin, short and scared of anything and everything, choosing the coward’s way in a situation, and speaks in a nervous voice. Anger is red, short and bursts into flames when driven over the edge. Disgust is a green (reminded me of jealousy) with girly hair and curled eye lashes. They have got the nuances right in the brilliant voice overs and their physical appearances.

But there is no Confusion as pointed out by another movie goer. Maybe it will be introduced once Riley attains puberty. Desperately hoping for a sequel!

Joy tries hard to make the transition of Riley smooth. Moving is never easy. You can’t be done with the old and in with the new instantly. Settling in takes time.

Sadness touches a core memory and brings on mayhem. Joy has a very low opinion of Sadness and sees her as a dark blip on her sunny radar but realizes her importance in making memories and life what it is. At first it appears they couldn’t be more different but the well being of Riley is what they have in common.

Joy and Sadness go on a rescue mission to save Riley. With them gone Riley feels numb. The other emotions realize they made a big mistake listening to Anger who goaded them into doing something drastic to make Riley happy. Do Joy and Sadness reach in time to save the day? Watch Inside Out to find out.

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