Magical realism in women’s fiction gives the reader and writer a broader canvas of possibilities. When you’re reading about women and their relationships (the broad definition of women’s fiction), elements of magic provide visual ways to describe a character’s feelings, frame internal events, and create adventures. Magical realism in women’s fiction can be small touches or big events, such as time travel. I used two magical realism elements in my novel The Renaissance Club , a butterfly emanating from a woman’s mouth when she answers her lover
and a small elephant that keeps appearing. Time bending and folding is the main magical realism trope in my novel, as something that both has a fantastical quality and something we’ve all experienced, in some way. How many times have you heard someone say, “This week seems to be going really fast!”
These step-asides from literal reality are meant to signal to readers that we’re about to enter an interior realm, a place that obeys different laws than the usual ones. Magical realism in women’s fiction allows us to visualize the character’s feelings and understand her internal changes. I love books with magical realism elements or frames because they often express a deeper reality. Using unlikely occurrences and symbolic images in unusual ways, some of my favorite novels shape the story of a woman’s journey in more vivid terms than realistic storytelling can always do.
A few of my favorites — magical realism in women’s fiction.
Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake tells the story of a girl with an unfortunate gift: she can taste the emotions of the cook or baker of any food she tastes. In Bender’s writing, the young girl’s relationships take on mythic qualities. The word sadness in the title reveals the loneliness this magical ability causes in young Rose Edelstein as no straightforward narration could do.
Susanna Kearsley’s The Shadowy Horses, a story involving ghosts of Roman legionnaires. Because I’m writing a ghost story now, with my now novel The Romantics, I’m specially interested in stories involving spirits.
Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells. Allen uses magical realism as nonchalantly as her character might pick up a trowel and dig in the earth. Her story is set in a garden with magical properties, so that its apple tree bears special fruit. She has a naturalistic way of telling her stories that makes the magic seem natural too.
Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate also centers on a magical way of creating food, a specialty of women. In the case of this love story, similar to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, the creator of food con veys her emotions through the edibles she creates.
Do you have any authors and titles to add to the topic of women’s fiction and magical realism? I’d love to hear them! Here in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate? My debut novel, The Renaissance Club, gives one woman’s answer.