Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

ImageHandlerWelcome 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 wakes 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.

Grabbed by the idea of a magical story, I snatched this book off the library shelf, but – as I so often find – the blurb doesn’t entirely reflect the book. The blurb makes no mention of Evanelle, a distant cousin of Claire’s who feels compelled to give people things; Sydney, Claire’s erstwhile sister who returns to Bascom with her daughter and a big secret ten years after she left; Henry Hopkins, who, like every Hopkins man, is old before his time. The beating heart of the story, for me, was the relationship between Claire and Sydney, even more so than the romance between Claire and new neighbour Tyler.

It is the magical element of the story that thrilled me. The apple tree that longed to be part of the family and produced apples that would show you the greatest event in your life. The flowers that, when cooked in Claire’s delicious sounding food, can create feelings of envy and love. And I am always a sucker for books with a focus on food.

Its quirkiness is delightful, but Claire can be an infuriating and stubborn heroine and I found the obstacles thrown in the way of her romance with Tyler annoyingly flimsy. The Clark women – who have the gift of being exceptional in bed – also feel surplus to requirements. Emma Clark is now married to Sydney’s high school sweetheart, Hunter John Matteson, and is threatened by Sydney’s return. But it’s a thread that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The idea of flowers infused into food, creating feelings in those that ate it, was delicious. Quite literally – my mouth watered. A light, summer read that I would recommend you read in your own garden.

Hodder Paperbacks, 2008. ISBN-10: 034093574X. 336pp.

3 comments on “Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

  1. annebrooke
    August 15, 2011

    This sounds magical, thanks, Nikki! 🙂


  2. Jackie
    August 16, 2011

    A poetic review of a book which has a lot of interesting ideas. It doesn’t sound like the magical aspects are done in a sickly sweet style as that sometimes leads to. You’ve made me curious about this one, sounds like a fun one when a light touch is wanted.
    The cover is attractive too, I like how it conveys the magical feeling with a simple composition and subdued colors.

  3. ChrisCross53
    August 16, 2011

    I’m curious too… it sounds interesting. Welcome back by the way – I hope you all had a wonderful break.

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This entry was posted on August 15, 2011 by in Entries by Nikki and tagged , , , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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