This is definitely a LOVE or HATE book and while I didn’t LOVE it, it did grow on me.
I was drawn in from the beginning with Alice. She is an angry, mean teenager who doesn’t know anything of her father and is always on the run from bad luck with her mother, Ella. They hop from place to place crashing on couches and unfamiliar beds. Alice knows she has a famous grandmother, Althea Proserpine,who wrote the book Tales From the Hinterland, creepy fairy tales, that has quite the cult following, but Alice doesn’t know why her grandmother has never wanted to meet her and why Ella refuses to go back to her grandmother’s house.
After Alice’s grandmother dies, her mom decides they are on the run again and they move to New York where Alice marries a really rich man that she doesn’t seem to love. This is the area that the book started losing my attention. The characters introduced her, like Alice’s step-father, and her step-sister seemed pointless other than to draw attention the fact that Alice and her mother do not fit into this well-to-do lifestyle. From here for me there was a lot of fluff and distractions thrown in like the fancy coffee shop, and her struggles with private school.
The book picks back up again when Ella gets kidnapped by the Hinterland and Alice meets Ellery Finch who quickly offers to help her unravel the puzzle that is The Hazel Wood. The story becomes a dark fairy tale at this point which, while quite complex and hard to unpack at times, was my favorite part. The suspicious dark characters mixed in with Finch’s occasional retelling of some of the stories from the copy of Tales of the Hinterland make for a good creepy vibe.
Overall Alice’s personality, like the book, is harsh and while the book rambles on and is flawed in places it does intertwine lots of details, allusions, names and places and references to other fairy tales, and artists into the text. And most importantly for me the desire to hear another story from the Tales of the Hinterland kept me intrigued enough to keep reading until the very last page.