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Friday, July 28, 2017

Magical Realism in Women's Fiction

There's a reason a good number of novelists writing about women and their relationships (the loose definition of women's fiction) include elements of magical realism. It's a fine way to make visual a character's  adventures in relationships.

A butterfly emanating from a woman's mouth when she tries to answer her lover, a small elephant that keeps appearing in different Italian towns -- elements I've used in my novel The Renaissance Club (forthcoming, Jan 2018) -- signal to us as readers that we're about to enter an  interior realm that obeys different laws than the usual ones, laws of feeling and symbol.

 I seek out these WF books with magical realism because to me
that's the deeper reality, the one described by unlikely occurrences and symbols appearing in unusual ways and places. Here are two magical realism reads in women's fiction, and writers who often use MR as a way to shape the story of a woman's journey.

Aimee Bender's newest is The Color Master, a collection of stories called "a wondrous collection of dreamy, strange, and magical stories." The bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (one of my favorite novels ever) has been called an enchantress whose lush prose is “moving, fanciful, and gorgeously strange” (People), “richly imagined and bittersweet” (Vanity Fair), and “full of provocative ideas” (The Boston Globe). In her deft hands, “relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities” (The Wall Street Journal). Enough said.

Susanna Kearsley's The Rose Garden. When Eva's film star sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina's ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs. But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. Kearsley's other books use magical elements to shape a character's journey.

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.

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 MR!