This week I am starting a new monthly spot on the blog, sharing with you books that I have read and enjoyed, mostly on a garden theme of course! With maybe the odd cat book thrown in here and there, in true New Simple Life style.
My days as a librarian are behind me and I can finally take pleasure from the simple act of visiting the library and choosing my books, without feeling the need to approach other customers to offer help in their choice or in using the self-service machines. Every time I visit, I get the same excited feeling as I did as a child, when the bag of books I took home each week promised new worlds to visit and new people to meet. Sometimes I didn’t even wait until I got home and started one in the park across the road from the library. I would like to say I have more patience and restraint as an adult but I will admit to dropping into a nearby café for a coffee and a quick read on my way home.
It was on one of these coffee shop stops that I started Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I hadn’t been sure about borrowing it at all – a quick flick through it showed me straightaway that it was set in smalltown America in the South and I confess I usually choose novels set in the familiar surroundings of the UK. However, the title swung it for me, along with the blurb which suggested I was about to enter an enchanted garden. A sucker for a fairytale, I decided to go with it. After all, the beauty of a library book is that there is little risk – if I didn’t like it, I could always just take it back.
Safe to say, I liked it. I was drawn into the story of 2 very different sisters, one who had escaped the small town as soon as possible and the other who stayed. Their family was known through the town as strange, with mysterious powers intrinsically linked with their large garden. Claire stayed and turned their magic into a successful business, but at the cost of her personal life; Sydney is forced home with her daughter when her life elsewhere unravelled. The book is the story of how they both come to terms with their past and their family heritage, which they need to do before they can move forward with their lives.
Is it a romance novel? Romance definitely plays its part, but to me it wasn’t the point of the story. This book is beautifully written, exploring the relationships between the sisters, their extended family and the community around them. The garden is evocatively described, and as a reader, I could feel the soil between my fingers as Claire weeded and gathered her edible flowers. The apple tree is a character in its own right and, as the owner of a large apple tree myself, I could completely believe in its ability to throw its apples and lure the unwary into eating its fruit. And the slightly dotty cousin, who has a compulsion to give the right thing to the right person at the right time, was one of the best characters I have met in the pages of a book for some time.
I cannot recommend this novel highly enough – the quality of the writing is what gives it its magic. Curl up in your garden or local park on a warm summer’s evening, preferably with a glass of wine, prepare to suspend your disbelief and be transported to an enchanted garden in North Carolina. You won’t regret it.