Magical realism is probably my favourite genre, I first discovered it in my early 20’s when reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “100 years of solitude” which was both torturous and tremendous to read- torture because it’s slow paced spanning over 3 generations and the language that describes the daily life of the family is very realist and at times tedious- just like real life and there have been times where I’ve lost my patience and had mild tantrums at the lack of action in that novel and then suddenly like a long awaited orgasm something mystical or odd happens which unfolds like a rare flower blooming in a mundane landscape. Needless to say 100 years of solitude is actually a favourite novel of mine- with divine hot chocolate that upon sipping, made the local priest levitate 4 inches off the ground, a girl hanging out bed sheets to dry, suddenly looks up at the sky and without saying a word, floats up to heaven never to be seen again, a boy is born with a pigs tail and it rained for 4 years, 11 months and 2 days in the epic tale. It is a unique literary experience, overwhelming in its virtuosity and magnificent in scope.
So what is magical realism? Magic realism is a technique which combines the real and the imaginary to create a fantastical, yet believable story, and also forces us to question the absurdity of our everyday lives, as if on a long, very normal and boring train journey to work and then suddenly your mind drifts into a seeping day dream. In the magical realism world, the people treat magical happenings as normal and part of every day life- a flying carpet is not awe-inspiring but perhaps something useful to society? And a beating heart made of diamonds could be sold on ebay? And a house is jealous of a girl as though it has emotions and a soul?
Magic realism is what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. So with that being said, here are 7 of my favourite magical realist novels you might fancy reading.
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
A stunning and lyrical novel about a young girl called Ari, her invisible seahorse, a turbulent childhood and her poetic, magical view of the world around her.
The language so poetic, so allusive, so enigmatic that for the first few pages I found myself agreeing with Ari’s teachers later in the book as he reads one of her stories: “I haven’t a clue what half of it means but I feel it, I see it, and on some level I understand it completely.”
The puzzlement clears soon and it becomes obvious that Ari is telling her story in the only way she can –sideways because the full on reality is too harsh.
The novel follows Ari from eight — when her father kills himself, her mother has a breakdown, and the sisters are doled out to various relatives — to sixteen when she has an opportunity to put into action the lessons life has taught her. During those eight years, Ari bounces between wonderful, nurturing situations and people — and other people and situations that will test all her resilience.
A very hauntingly, beautiful book, buy it here: The Clay Girl
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesley Walton
This book reminds me of traditional fairytales in their purest forms – before being sanitized or gentled for the presumed fragility of young minds. it positively drips with death and loss: people cutting out their own hearts, turning into birds, people suffering endlessly because of impossible loves.
and in the midst of all this, a girl is born with a pair of wings.
It is magical realism at the height of its potential. it is like Marquez in its chronicling of the relentless suffering of the different generations of a family, and it is esquivel in its food-as-magic: “Happy smiles were shared between the bride and groom, but it was the cake their guests remembered – the vanilla custard filling, the buttercream finish, the slight taste of raspberries that had surely been added to the batter. No one brought home any slices of leftover cake to place under their pillow, hoping to dream of their future mate; instead, the guests… ate the whole cake and then had dreams of eating it again. After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn’t any cake left.”
Reading this book felt like wrapping myself in a warm blanket on a misty, autumn day. The writing was beautiful. The characters were magical. The entire book felt like something you could sink into. This tale was not just made, it was threaded and crafted. I feel like it has burrowed inside of me.
Buy this dream-like book here: The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender
“They say that a woman who practices magic is a witch, and that every witch derives her power from the earth. There was a great seer who advised that, should a man hold a witch in the air, he could then cut off her powers, thereby making her helpless. But such an attempt would have no effect on me. My strength came from water, my talents buoyed by the river. On the day I swam in the Nile and saw my fate in the ink blue depths, my mother told me that I would have powers of my own, as she did. But there was a warning she gave me as well: If I were ever to journey too far from the water, I would lose my power and my life. I must keep my head and not give in to desire, for desire is what is what causes women to drown.”
This is a historical-saga fictional novel with slices of magical realism woven softly into the narrative like silk. This book has been called Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece, her most ambitious and mesmerizing writing, and I surely agree. This is the richly told story of four strong and mysterious women from diverse paths who find themselves drawn together as sacred dovekeepers for the 900 Jews who held off the fierce Roman army for months in the Judean desert at the mountain fortress Masada. Hoffman explores themes on ancient magick, sexuality, freedom, gender, love, eroticism, daily life, family, war, childbirth, landscape, historical facts and much more all within this epic tombe!
Each word, each sentence and each paragraph felt precious and personal as though reading a diary. All 4 women had beautifully strong personalities and stories that interlinked with each other and it was such a breath of fresh air reading a novel where the secondary characters were male which allowed the female characters the opportunity to tell their tale and be deep and complex beings in their own right- love and relationships was a strong theme in the book but each woman had other important tasks to concentrate on than centering their livelihood around the men in their lives.
Seductive. captivating. factual and thick like desert air. This story is gorgeous.
Buy the book here: The Dovekeepers