Monday, 17 May 2010

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

GENRE: Southern fiction/magical realism

Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where it seems that everyone has a story to tell about the Waverley women. The house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, the rumours of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Every Waverley woman is somehow touched by magic. Claire has always clung to the Waverleys’ roots, tending the enchanted soil in the family garden from which she makes her sought-after delicacies – famed and feared for their curious effects. She has everything she thinks she needs – until one day she awakes to find a stranger has moved in next door and a vine of ivy has crept into her garden . . . Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.


This novel is very reminiscent of a Southern Gothic novel, only that it’s lighter and more romantic in its nature. This is definitely one of the sweetest novels I have read in recent years. It features a bit of magic, just enough to spice up an ordinary day, and it also has romance, family issues, relationship issues, and a bunch of very interesting characters.

The novel is actually about two Waverley women, not just one – Claire and Sydney, who are sisters. Claire’s a great character. She is a solitary woman and she likes to be left alone, except for a few individuals that she lets into her life. She’s a successful caterer, especially because her food is known to be a bit magical. She always adds some mystical plants into her food that make people feel certain emotions. If you want to be happy, ask Claire to make you a happy dish! When Claire gets a new neighbour, she feels threatened. He upsets her routine and her balance, especially when he makes it clear that he likes her. Suddenly, Claire’s like a fish on dry land and it’s very interesting to follow her struggles and then her progress.

Then, there’s Sydney, Claire’s runaway sister. She returns home to the Waverley house one day with her daughter Bay in her arms and their arrival further upsets Claire’s balanced life, also because Claire knows what Sydney left behind. It shows how Claire hates changes and how uncomfortable they make her. At the same time, Sydney’s story is revealed to the reader. Sydney also has a streak of magic inside her and eventually, she is not afraid to make people happy with her magical ability. The sisters need to adjust to each other, re-discover each other and heal old wounds from the past, while trying to find happiness and love at the same time.

The women in this novel are really amazing characters. I’ve already explained about Claire and Sydney. Then, there’s also Claire and Sydney’s elderly cousin Evanelle, who is on good terms with the Waverley sisters and who is famous for randomly gifting people with things that they actually end up needing at a later time. Hers is an uncanny ability as well. Every Waverley woman has a special gift. They’re not witches; they just each have a special gift with which they can help people. Claire and Sydney didn’t want this at first, but they gradually learn to accept it. It’s also great how the house reacts to changes in the lives of the Waverley women. When a man stepped into Claire’s life, ivy began to grow in the garden, and the famous Waverley apple went a little crazy.

Garden Spells
is such a delightful read! It’s got magic, romance, family, and it’s just delicious. Every character is special in some way and they are really memorable. The story is also great and memorable. It’s one of those books I’ll definitely read again in the future. I definitely recommend it.



Julie P said...

I am adding this one to my TBR list--thank you for sharing!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

You're welcome! Oh, do, it's a great book.

Milka said...

Never heard of this before! But after reading your review I definitely need to add it to my wishlist at some point. :)

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I'm glad I could contribute something new to your reading list.;)

Laura @ A Jane of All Reads said...

Loved this book. Allen's stories are so magical and they make you very hungry while reading :)

Have you read The Sugar Queen yet?