Monday, August 11, 2008

Garden Spells

New York : Bantam Dell, c2007.

Like many, I was attracted to this book by its beautiful cover. It is magical and quite lovely. I was also intrigued by reading many reviews. Unfortunately I think I will be in the minority when I say that I really didn't love it. I thought it was just alright. Many people have compared Allen to Alice Hoffman. The plot of this story really does cleave a little too closely to that of Practical Magic for my taste; it leaves me feeling as if I'm reading a pale shadow of Hoffman's rich story. I've read all of Alice Hoffman's work, and I think her particular brand of storytelling has an originality and a darkness to it despite its label of 'magical realism' (which often seems to be interpreted as 'dreamy and fey'). This novel, in comparison, seems shallower, with more of a bubbly chick-lit feel to it. Each Waverly woman has a special gift, but really, hairdressing as a special magical talent?

Andi asked:
Did you like Garden Spells? What was your favorite part and/or character?

Despite what I've just written, I didn't think it was awful! I read it all in one night, so there was something in it that kept me fascinated. There were some characters with depth, particularly elderly Cousin Evanelle, and young Bay Waverly. There were some clever elements, like the Waverly apple tree with its magical powers. The image that Bay kept dreaming of, that of the tree sparkling and rustling in the breeze, was brought into reality with great visual acuity. However, I did not really like either sister, Claire or Sydney, nor the men they were interested in, nor the twee town they lived in. So it is hard for me to give this a thumbs up. There was certainly potential, but I'd like to see her get out of the shadow of Alice Hoffman and give free rein to her own voice.
Overall, this story of two dissimilar sisters, each with their own strengths (Claire with the ability to cook and cater with quite unexpected results for those partaking, Sydney for...doing hair) falls into predictability. I'm not sure I really believed the romantic elements, or the ease of the sisterly reconciliation. However, it was another light summer read, and as such, not bad.

Were you totally enchanted by Garden Spells? I was, but have since read a few reviews from people who thought it was so-so. If you loved it, are you planning to read her new book, The Sugar Queen?

I guess I fall into the so-so camp. However, I may just read The Sugar Queen, hoping that she has become a more assured writer. The idea of the book sounds like it could be either really good or really bad. I might have to find out which! And, once again the cover is gorgeous.


  1. oh good. another person with a so-so opinion. I was starting to wonder if I was missing something.

  2. I've just picked up Garden Spells from the library.

  3. Oh, hey! I just took this out of my library last night and got distracted as I was about to post my Library find post. What timing!

    Thanks for your comments on my blog - you're now entered in my contest! Whee!

  4. I got this one in audioform from the library, and I quit after the second CD. I agree-it felt like a bubbly remake of Practical Magic, and I just found myself rolling my eyes allllllll the time.

  5. Jena, Eva - I was worried that I was being too hard on it. But I see I'm not totally alone in this opinion, whew!

    Marg - we'll have to wait and see whether you love or hate it! ;)

    Cat - you too... and thanks for running such a fun contest.

    Hey - everyone should check out Cat's YA contest!

  6. Even though I really liked it, I totally know what you mean re: Hoffman. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like Addison was poking out of her shadow. However, having said that, it's been ages since I've read a Hoffman, so I could sort of look at this one afresh. And it was the PERFECT airplane reading. I have the attention span of an earring back when it comes to planes. lol


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