Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, October 18, 2010

Garden Spells

by Sarah Addison Allen
290 pages

*** About the Book ***

Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery)Claire Waverley is content.  She is perfectly happy to be on the outer edges of town life, living in her grandmother's old house and tending to the family garden.  The garden brings her peace, and she in turn uses her "family talent" to turn the flowers into delicious delicacies.  In fact, she's used her family's eccentricity to create her own business - a catering company that creates food that influences its eaters in not-so-subtle ways.

Claire's quiet life is interrupted when her estranged sister, Sydney, returns after a ten year absence, with a young daughter in tow, and moves back into the family house.  Claire is torn between the comfort of her old life and her desire to be a family with her sister and her niece.  She's also trying to fend off the attentions of her new neighbor.  Meanwhile, Sydney's arrival has stirred up the town gossips and re-opened old wounds.

And in the middle of all this is the apple tree in Claire's garden that keeps tossing apples at anyone nearby ...

*** Why I Read It ***

My book club voted to read this for our October meeting.  My copy came from the library.

*** My Thoughts ***

Confession #1: I did not want to read this book. I thought it sounded stupid and boring.  I was not looking forward to wasting my time, and I put off reading it until the week before book club.


Ok, so ... yes, the plot sounds rather silly, and yes, this is not a genre that I ever - EVER - read by choice (women's fiction maybe, but Southern fiction never). BUT this book is wonderful!  It is somewhat predictable and not all that deep, but it is a comfort read if ever I read one.  And it is original in a way that is completely endearing.

The "magic" in this book is presented in the tradition of magical realism.  It is simply a part of life, a part of the way the world works, and as such it merits no explanation.  The characters, and hence the reader, simply accept it and continue on with the story.  "Yes, Claire can make food that has special powers.  Yes, the apple tree has personality and thinks for itself.  And your point is?"

I breezed through this book in just a few days. It was a pure pleasure to read and I will definitely pick up a copy of the author's other books

I am a bit concerned about my book club meeting though. I mean, I really enjoyed this book but I don't know that there will be a great deal to discuss.  I hope the gal who is in charge of this meeting comes up with some good questions.  There are some great short stories, recipes, and general tidbits on the author's website so maybe I'll bring some of those along ...

(Oh, and I have to tell you - I love that apple tree! I want to hug it and kiss it and lay under it and decorate it with ribbons.)

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you ever been completely wrong about a book, in a good way?  Which book, and why did you decide to give it a try?


Kate said...

Sarah Addison Allen has quickly become one of my favorite authors, despite her relative newness. You have to read Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased The Moon. Go now, do not skip a Barnes and Noble, and start reading! :)

That's the best thing about joining a book club, though on occasion you will get stuck with a bad book, you also discover books you would never have read on your own.

Heather J. said...

Kate - One of the other girls in the club just read Sugar Queen and said it was just as good - I'll definitely give that one a try when I need another light, fun, comfort read.

softdrink said...

I adore Allen's books. And even better than the apple tree, The Sugar Queen has magical books.

Mystica said...

I was not very keen myself to read this book (before reading it). An apple tree that throws its apples over the garden wall??? But once I read it, I loved the book.

Elisabeth said...

The last book I read that took me by surprise was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I thought it was going to be about what happened after Hurricane Katrina which it was but what surprised me was the way in which we treated people who were considered suspicious. It made me ashamed to be an American. If you have not read it, it is an eye opener.

Heather J. said...

softdrink - That's what I've heard - it sounds so fun!

Mystica - That's exactly how I felt. :)

Elisabeth - I've heard great things about that book but have not read it - sounds like it needs to be on the TBR list.

Alyce said...

Book club books get me out of my comfort zone too. I recently read The Glass Castle and wasn't expecting to like it, but it was very good.

I liked Garden Spells and though The Sugar Queen was even better. I don't always like magical realism, but Sarah Addison Allen's writing hasn't disappointed me yet.

Heather J. said...

Alyce - I felt the same way about The Glass Castle. In fact, one of the girls in the club described Garden Spells as "that Guernsey book meets The Glass Castle" - how funny! She's not far off, IMO.

Meghan said...

I think this one surprised me too! I picked it up because it was cheap and I didn't have anything else to read. I was really happy to discover that it was such a lovely story. I agree with everyone else, her others are similarly wonderful and you should read them too if you liked this. :)

Amanda said...

Oh I'm so glad you liked this one! I loved it even though it's not my typical read either and it's not DEEP but oh I just loved the magic realism too. I think it's Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic but sweeter. Have fun at the Book Club!!

Heather J. said...

Meghan - Glad to know that you enjoyed it too - it's not one that I'd have picked for you, but it is surprisingly fun.

Amanda - The meeting was a lot of fun - not a ton to discuss, but a nice get-together all the same.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I enjoy magical realism (but not "magic" - go figure!), so this might appeal to me. I haven't jumped at it in the past, but I like the way you were won over ...thanks for the review, Heather.

Marg said...

I see this book as being really accessibly magical realism! Since reading, and adoring, this one, I have read all of Sarah Addison Allen's books.

They are perfect reads for devouring in one sitting, or for losing yourself in for a couple of hours!

Can't wait for the next one. The cover on it is gorgeous!

Heather J. said...

Dawn - I hope you give it a try - it is really an enjoyable read.

Marg - I agree! This book gave me the brief escape from reality that I didn't even realize I needed. I'll definitely read more of her books!

Yvette said...

Okay, though I don't like Southern Lit either, I'll add this to my list. I do like magical realism. (Didn't even know that's what they were calling it. I am so far BEHIND the times!)

Books I didn't expect to like but wound up loving: the Harry Potter series. Especially the last three books.

I'd decided to read it because I was working part time in a bookstore at the time and felt I should be familiar with our most popular books.

Heather J. said...

Yvette - I didn't think I'd like the HP books either, but once I picked it up (at my dad's suggestion, of all things!) I was hooked. :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I absolutely loved this book, too! I enjoyed all the aspects of magical realism, and got really caught up in the story. Couldn't put it down, and I enjoyed her next book as well. It's a quick read, I agree!

For your book club meeting, I definitely think making a recipe or two might be fun -- I think it could be a lively sort of discussion, what with discussing the idea of magical realism potentially possible, and all...after all, that haunting sort of magic could be felt in everything. It sounds like a fun night!

Heather J. said...

Coffee and a Book Chick - A few of us considered making recipes with edible flowers but I think everyone in the club had a rough week so we all settled on simple and easy foods to bring. :) We did agree to try edible flowers at a future meeting though!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I never thought edible flowers really existed, until I recently tried it -- not bad!

Heather J. said...

Coffee and a Book Chick - I had some at a wedding a few years ago - they were really good!

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