Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reading Lists - Magical Realism

Magical realism is a genre in which magical elements are blended into a realistic atmosphere in order to access a deeper understanding of reality. Unusual events—a rain of flowers, a priestly levitation, or a sudden transformation, for example — are presented as marvelous parts of the everyday, and surprisingly credible in the context at hand. The genre is largely associated with Latin American writers of the late 20th Century.

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu
Saved from death with a grafted clock for a heart, little Jack is warned never to fall in love lest his fragile clock-heart break. Despite this warning, Jack falls in love, and he must flee from home when his emotions stir him to violence. His quest is a beautifully written tale of love, filled with vivid metaphors and fantastical inventions.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris
When the beautiful and mysterious Vianne moves to Lansquenet and opens a chocolate shop across from the church, the inhabitants of the tiny village find themselves torn between the solemn law of religion and the joyful rewards of Vianne's confections. Harris' writing conveys a multitude of images and captures the self-absorption of small-town life in France.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Emily goes to Mullaby, NC hoping to solve the riddles surrounding her mother's life. But the moment she enters the house where her mother grew up, Emily realizes that mysteries in Mullaby are a way of life. Wallpaper that changes with mood, a sweet scent to call one home, and boys who glow in the moonlight will make readers jealous they can't live in this magical world.

The Gravedigger by Peter Grandbois
Juan Rodrigo, a gravedigger in a small village in Andalucía, hears the voices of the dead and recounts their tales for the villagers. A gifted storyteller, Juan interjects lessons in understanding and forgiveness in his stories. Juan’s compassionate nature is put to the test when his daughter Esperanza falls in love with a young Gypsy boy.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
This is a strong, absorbing Chilean family chronicle and meditation on a people and nation victimized and brutalized by their past. It begins with Esteban, the patriarch of the wealthy Trueba family, who mistreats and abuses those beneath him until he falls under the spell of young Clara (who has the gifts of telekinesis and soothsaying).

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Tita is expected to spend her life waiting on Mama Elena and never to marry. When her beloved Pedro becomes engaged to Tita’s sister, they manage to communicate their affection through the dishes Tita prepares for Pedro and Pedro’s rapturous appreciation. Eventually, Tita's culinary wizardry unleashes uncontrollable forces, with surprising results.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, making him exactly contemporary with the life of India-as-a-nation. All of the "midnight children" are equipped with powers of telepathic communication, foresight, and heightened individual sensoria—Saleem's gift is the ability to literally smell change.

The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
On a fictional Caribbean island, Calamity has reached midlife and major changes are in store for her. A hot flash magically produces a pin she lost in childhood, marking the return of her special power for finding lost things, which she hasn’t had since childhood. When Calamity’s power turns up a lost toddler, she takes him in and her life changes more.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
This is the foremost novel of the genre and one of the great books of the 20th Century. It’s the history of a multigenerational family and its town, the Buendias of Macondo. As each generation plays out its inheritance and destiny, the Buendias and their village lose both solitude and innocence. García Márquez’s storytelling celebrates man's creative abilities in the face of inevitable catastrophe.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Discovering in childhood a supernatural ability to taste the emotions of others in their cooking, young Californian Rose Edelstein grows up to regard food as a curse when it reveals everyone's secret realities. How she and others learn to cope—or not, as the case may be—is the small, sad story Rose shares in this bittersweet coming-of-age novel.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman
In interrelated stories, Hoffman traces the multi-generational story of wintry Blackwell, a fictional Massachusetts town, from 1750 to the present. Her characters—from town founder Hallie Brady to the visiting Johnny Appleseed—are richly diverse and vivid. Linking them all is an extraordinary garden, where the greenest plant grows red and the answers to life's mysteries can be found.

Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell
The core of this tale is the forbidden love of a Jewish tomato farmer and a rich Catholic girl, who live in a village full of eccentrics who speak in rhyme, celebrate the Feast of the Drunken Saint, and live a life untouched by the passage of time. Tradition, religion, and good taste collide in a story about the courage to pursue love and tomato sauce.

When Autumn Leaves by Amy Foster
In the tiny town of Avening in the Pacific Northwest, life hums with a peculiar sort of energy. Some call the town enchanted; others call it quirky. The town witch and wise woman, Autumn is ready to retire and must find a replacement from among the locals, strong men and women whose stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

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