Monday, August 17, 2009

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Genre: Fiction, with a dash of fantasy
Publisher: Bantam, 2007
Other Works: The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Flags: Adult themes, Explicit references
Rating: B-, or Not Sorry I Read It
Premise: Claire and Sydney are sisters. Claire’s the hermit type; Sydney’s the free spirit. Both sisters have one thing in common: they come from a family who has magical gifts, especially concerning their garden and its mysterious abilities. When Sydney comes home after ten years on the loose with her secrets carefully guarded, she and Claire must find a way to reconnect.

I didn’t love this book. And, I was surprised by that only because I’d read a raving review about it from a website I trust. So, I felt a little disappointed, but on the whole, it wasn’t a bad read. It just didn’t live up to my expectations.

The setting is North Carolina in a little town called Bascom. In this town there is a family, the Waverleys, who are known for their unusual backyard. After Claire and Sydney’s mother takes off, their grandmother raises both girls. She teaches Claire, the older sister, the trade of their family: making meals from their mysterious herbs and edible flowers. But Sydney is a free spirit, and she leaves as soon as she can after high school. One day, Sydney appears, after ten years of no word, with secrets to keep. +/-

I really enjoyed the pace of the novel and the characters. Claire is a reserved, emotionally stunted woman, while Sydney lives with her heart on her sleeve. The two of them together make an interesting pair. Their cousin, Evanelle, has an odd way of giving people things that they will somehow need in the future. She’s a quirky old lady who enjoys a “good male posterior.” Tyler, the Waverleys next-door neighbor, relentlessly pursues Claire, with his floppy hair and wide smiles.

I was intrigued with the first half, but unfortunately, the story began to take a turn downhill. The author did a great job of setting up tension and conflicts, but then bungled them in the resolution. One of the things I enjoyed most in the first half were Claire’s constant cooking and baking, involving potions to influence people one way or another (chamomile for laughter, violets for serenity). But this seemed to taper off, and I found myself wondering why the garden was no longer taking a front seat.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, and the premise was very creative and appealing to me. But I felt the story needed a little more development and a lot more revision.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds very similar to many books I have read - 2 free-spirit (more like slut :)), and the other one a little repressed...yada,yadda,yadda

I have also read great things about this book, so it is a little disappointing that it seems so formulaic :(