#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith Writes. How does it work? We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.
Welcome 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 waked to find a stranger has moved in next door and a tendril of ivy has crept into her garden…
Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.
I haven’t read much by way of small town Southern fiction. Garden Spells, the 2008 debut novel by Sarah Addison Allen, is a great example of rich southern tale. It is based in the quaint town of Bascom, North Carolina. Garden Spells came to me in as part of a book club choice by a member of our group and I’m so glad to be graced with the reading experience offered by this surprisingly wholesome tale.
At the heart of Garden Spells and this novel has plenty of it, is the tale of two sisters, who are a part of the infamous Waverley clan. The Waverley family have resided in the area of Bascom for years. Local gossip surrounding the family is based around the magical power of the Waverley home and its garden. Then there is the mystical apple tree that grows in the Waverley garden. Just one bite of an apple from the Waverley tree will bring a vision of the most defining moment of your life! The Waverley women themselves, generation after generation, each possess their own unique set of powers. For Claire, the lead of the story, this is her ability to cook up culinary delights that can alter the perspectives of those who consume her dishes. When Claire, who keeps her heart close to her chest, has her absent sister Sydney return with her young daughter Bay in tow, this serves up plenty of complications.
I was slightly apprehensive about reading this particular book club title. The magical realism and sense of whimsy that comes from the premise of Garden Spells did initially put me off, but boy was I proven wrong! I loved this book, it was a completely surprising read! It snuck up on me and soon occupied a place in my heart. It was the perfect weekend read too, I really enjoyed curling up to Garden Spells over a wet and windy weekend. All the things that I had reservations about I actually enjoyed, so for this reader it was a big lesson to learn about not judging a book by its cover and premise!
One of my favourite films is Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon, another great southern fiction tale. Garden Spells reminded me a lot of this film, along with the classic Fried Green Tomatoes, plus there are elements of Practical Magic. I gained so much comfort from the storytelling of Sarah Addison Allen, I am quite amazed this is her debut novel too! The writing is light and comforting, but also exploratory. I loved the hints to the supernatural world and the magical qualities of the Waverley family.
Garden Spells is a rich tale of a family that has suffered much over the years. Allen weaves in and out of the various estrangements, abandonment, public scorn, abuse, low self esteem issues and so much more. Garden Spells is deceiving; it seems like such a sweet tale, but beneath this deceptive guise is a vulnerable set of individuals trying to work through their issues, flaws and misgivings. The road travelled with this full character set is an absolute delight and I thoroughly enjoyed unlocking the secrets of the Waverley sisters.
Expect a nice healthy dose of romance in Garden Spells. For one of the sisters this comes in the form of a lost love. This love story was a pleasure to oversee. My favourite romance sub plot involved Claire and her inability to commit to a new relationship with Tyler, a neighbour who has a fascinating family background. I adored the wooing that took place on Tyler’s behalf. He was such a gentleman, I admired his persistence and romanticism! This is no ordinary tale of new love, Allen incorporates Claire’s magic in the food department in her pathway to love.
For gardening enthusiasts, Garden Spells will send you in a spin. The plants, herbs, flowers and the Waverley garden itself are described beautifully. It is spellbinding and the sense of place is overwhelming at times. For those who have a passion for cooking, Garden Spells will appeal very much. Claire is caterer and a chef with an unusual gift for working with flowers and different plant extracts, which she infuses in her cooking. So many flavours seemed to emanate from the pages of this book while I was reading it!
Allen’s characterisation is first-rate. Claire and Sydney, the two prime protagonists of the novel, are open and unhindered. I love both of them in their own special ways. Sure they had their flaws, but this made them much more real and likeable. Tyler was gentleman, along with Sydney’s love interest. Then there is an ageing cousin who is so quirky, I lapped up the scenes she featured in. Bay offers the essential link between the two estranged sisters and I enjoyed observing Bay embrace her Waverley heritage once she settled into life in Bascom. Allen also introduces plenty of colourful townsfolk to this full tale. I didn’t want to leave Bascom, that’s for sure! I must also mention the legendary apple tree that sits in the Waverley Garden, although I had to suspend some disbelief, this aspect of the story was so gratifying, in an unexpected way!
If my TBR pile didn’t resemble something like Mount Everest, I would be dashing out and indulging in as a many Sarah Addison Allen books as I could, based on my enjoyment of Garden Spells . This one comes recommended!
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen was published on 1st July 2008 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Learn more about the author of Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen here.