Welcome to the next month in our year long Online Reading Challenge! This month’s theme is Magical Realism.
So, what the heck is Magical Realism anyway? It’s not an official Library of Congress subject or genre, more of a made up description for books that fall somewhere between science fiction/fantasy and fiction. It is usually applied to books that are grounded in reality, but with some magical element. Usually, the magical is not the focus of the story, but it does influence what happens. It is frequently used by many Latin American authors (Isabelle Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez among them), but there are many other authors that employ Magical Realism.
There is a fair amount of argument among the literary elite – they appear to be a feisty bunch – about the exact definition of what is and what is not Magical Realism. For our purposes, as always, we’ll leave it up to you on how you interpret it and what you choose to read. I find that reading Magical Realism requires a little hop of faith – I don’t try to rationalize what’s going on, or explain it scientifically (magical, remember?), but just go with it.
Now, this may be a theme that many of you are just not interested in and that’s fine. You can skip this month and join us again in April, no problem (remember – no such thing as Library Police!) But I would encourage you to at least take a look at some of the authors and titles – you might be surprised to realize you’ve already read some of these books! Here’s a sampler to get you started:
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel – When Tita is forced to prepare the wedding feast for the man she loves who is marrying her sister, her emotions are transferred to the food she makes, affecting all who eat it. Charming and bittersweet, this love story takes place in turn-of-the century Mexico and contains a powerful message of the role of women in society.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris – The perfect book for chocolate lovers as well as Francophile’s, this story takes place in a tiny village in France. The sudden arrival of Vianne Rocher introduces joy and sensuality to the straitlaced community when she opens a chocolate shop of delights. In addition, Vianne is able to detect each buyer’s secret unhappiness and offers clever cures. A delicious treat!
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman – For more than two hundred years, the Owens women had been blamed for everything that went wrong in their Massachusetts town. And Gillian and Sally endured that fate as well; as children, the sisters were outsiders. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, but all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One would do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they shared brought them back-almost as if by magic…
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. This luminous novel tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor – On the island of Willow Springs, off the Georgia coast, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island’s darker forces. A powerful generational saga at once tender and suspenseful, overflowing with magic and common sense. I once recommended this book to a friend who called me at home the minute she finished it to tell me how much it affected her – an extraordinary novel.
My reading choice for this month is Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, about a circus that mysteriously appears, stays for a few days and then disappears again but only after entertaining guests with extraordinary acts. I’ll admit right now – I’m cheating just a little bit with this one. I had read about two thirds of the book and, even though I was enjoying it, had to set it aside as other books and projects demanded my time. I’m looking forward to finishing it now! And, I intend to read another title for this theme as well – I’ll let you know what title I choose.
So, what about you? See anything that catches your interest? Anything you’d like to recommend to others? And what do you plan to read this month?
Remember, the Online Reading Challenge bookmarks are now available at each of the Davenport Library buildings – they’re a great way to keep track of your 2016 reading list.
Check here if you need to more information about the Online Reading Challenge.