Sunday, January 3, 2010

Garden Spells

This novel tells the story of two estranged sisters, Claire Waverly, a caterer who puts an extra magical something into the foods she prepares, and Sydney Waverly, who left her small North Carolina town as a teenager, where she was defined by her last name as one of those weird Waverlys. But now Sydney, on the run from a disastrous marriage to an abusive, controlling man, is coming home. Having a child has changed things for her, and she needs to give her daughter peace and security.

The narrative switches points of view, alternating between Claire's and Sydney's, and including snippets from minor characters' points of view. Depending on the book, this technique can feel artificial to me and push me out of a story, but in this case it worked well, giving me valuable insight into the characters that would not have been achieved through a single point of view. The characters are the spotlight of this story - not since The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society have I felt so reluctant to let the characters walk out of my life at the end of the final chapter.

There's Claire, of course, with her resistance to any sort of change in her life - or risk to her emotions. There's Sydney, facing everything she left back in her despised hometown - as well as her sister's disapproval - all for the sake of her little daughter, Bay. And Bay - only five or six years old, is charming and wise, and has quite a bit to teach her aunt and mother. Then there's Tyler, the handsome artist who has moved into the house next door to Claire and is searching for a way to get beyond her prickly exterior. And the old apple tree in the Waverly garden has mystical apples and a penchant for involving itself in the affairs of the Waverly family...

Allen brings a small town in North Carolina to life - and it's a magical place, literally and figuratively. I was sorry when the story came to a close, and I will definitely be on the lookout for other books by this author. The audio book was a perfect way to experience this novel, which lends itself well to being read aloud. Fans of the J.D. Robb audiobooks will recognize the narrator, Susan Ericksen, who does such an excellent job with those books, and made this one a real treat.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen; narrated by Susan Ericksen (Brilliance Audio, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Angieville: "I loved this book. I loved the heady descriptions of baking and gardening and the many unexpected intersections between the two art forms."
Beyond Books: "Finishing this book made me feel like something was missing inside me. How pathetic is that? I was so charmed by the characters and the writing I felt content and comforted every time I picked up the book to read before bed."
Bookfoolery and Babble: "If I felt there was anything at all to complain about, it might be the fact that most of the characters' flaws are very mild. But, I just don't feel like complaining. I liked the book too much."
Books on the Brain: "I was captivated by Garden Spells. It is romantic and sweet and the story flows nicely. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or magical fiction."

9 comments:

  1. I've heard good things about this so it's on one of my TBR lists around here somewhere. I'm glad you really enjoyed it!

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  2. I have loved both of her books so far! Can't wait for the new one to come out this year.

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  3. I've been meaning to read this for ages and still haven't found the time. Thanks for the reminder and here's hoping I get to it in 2010.

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  4. I don't know if I would have gotten the same feel for the book if I had listened to it. Of course I am normally not an audiobook sort of person. The alternating views would seem annoying to me I think.

    I adored this book. I do have The Sugar Queen sitting on my TBR pile, but I am too chicken to pick it up in case I compare it too much to Garden Spells and loose that magical feeling. Does that make sense?

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  5. Ladytink - I think you'll really enjoy this one. It's delightful in a quiet, whimsical, comforting sort of way.

    Marg - I'm glad to hear you enjoyed her other book as well - I'm looking forward to reading that one later this year - and to the new one that's coming out soon!

    Rhinoa - I hope you manage to get to it this year - I think you'll love it. I will be by soon to sign up for this year's manga challenge - I'm so behind!!

    Cat - Susan Ericksen is one of my favorite audio book readers, and she did a fabulous job with this one and made the alternating viewpoints work surprisingly well. I know just what you mean about being reluctant to pick up the next one - I'm already planning on waiting a while so that this one can fade a bit in my mind before I try the other one. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels that way!

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  6. I've heard several good reviews of this now. I must hunt it down. Thanks!

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  7. Mariel - I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

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  8. I heard a lot of good things about this book. I will have to go to my local book store and get it. than I can do a book review on my newly started blog.

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  9. Hope - I hope you enjoy it!

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