Magical realism in women’s fiction — magic and relationships just seem to go together, don’t they? In my reading adventures, they certainly do. I embrace the magic, and find it everywhere in real life and in novels. And I’m fascinated by human relationships and why they’re important in our life journeys. That’s why I love to read magical realism novels, this wonderful sub-genre of women’s fiction. It seems to me to more accurately reflect my reality — pictured there as a woman on a path opening her arms to wonder.
I love women’s fiction — that is, fiction focused on relationships — and I love it when the story includes a supernatural dimension. It could be time travel, as in my own novel The Renaissance Club. It could be a magical recipe ingredient that has the power to affect those who eat the product, as in a novel I just read.
Susan Bishop Crispell’s Dreaming in Chocolate drew me in with its title alone. And when I shared the recent Author Happy Hour event with Susan, I was delighted to hear about her adventure in creating this story. It’s the story of a woman with a magical table and a gift for creating chocolate delights that have the ability to affect others. How she uses — or can’t use that gift — for the benefit of her very ill daughter forms the core dilemma of the story.
The book reminded me of Sarah Addison Allen’s magical realism stories, especially her debut novel, Garden Spells. Another recommended read about a family whose culinary creations have magical properties, but can’t solve their own problems. Her book The Sugar Queen had magic that also revolved around food. Read that one if you have any issues around food. (Who doesn’t?) And another one involving magic and food is Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients. This tale is of a cooking school whose magical culinary art affects all the participants.
Another author of magical realism I’ve read and loved is Susanna Kearsley. Her novel The Shadowy Horses is a ghost story with heart and history. It’s a form of time travel novel, in that the characters who are affected by the presence on their property of a Roman legionnaire from the distant past find his spirit helps them solve their problems in the present. I recommend this one for a few shivers and a lot of uplift.
Kearsley’s new Belleweather, a time travel novel, is next on my to-be-read list for magical realism novels. It’s coming out in August, and an advance review calls it, “Part history, part romance, and all kinds of magic, Susanna Kearsley’s latest masterpiece.”
Magic is an element in all our lives, I believe. Magical realism in women ‘s fiction seems to be to be simply realism at a deep level. Life presents “more things, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Shakespeare had that wonderfully right, because our philosophies tend to narrow down to the immediate and actual. We tend not to see the larger picture, and to be blindsided by it when phenomenal coincidences, strange occurrences, and feelings of things beyond the tangible affect us. I think magic means simply what we don’t yet understand but are touched by and changed by. Life is the biggest magical event. No one yet has really explained it. And that’s part of my philosophy of not trying to comprehend everything through my own small lens. I do know the one magical element in all our lives — love. In my world, love always wins. And often in women’s fiction, that’s also true.