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So what exactly is Magical Realism?

So what exactly is Magical Realism?

Magical Realism defined

This is a genre that people seem to enjoy, but I actually have no idea what they are referring to. I would hear magical realism and think, “OK, real magic.” I finally decided to do some digging and see what the buzz is all about. So from the definition above it doesn’t look like I was too far off the mark with my assumptions. It’s the acceptance of magic in the rational world.

So as one sometimes does I turned to Goodreads for some recommendations and I realized that I have in fact delved into the magical realism world a few times. AND the few times that I did? I enjoyed the experience!

Experience #1 – Movie – Chocolat

ChocolatA woman and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community.

Director: Lasse Hallström

Writers: Joanne Harris (novel), Robert Nelson Jacobs (screenplay)

Stars: Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, (more)

I could do with a bit more excess. From now on I’m going to be immoderate–and volatile–I shall enjoy loud music and lurid poetry. I shall be rampant.

Experience #2 – Book – The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The PArticular Sadness of Lemon CakeThe wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender’s place as “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language” (San Francisco Chronicle). (Goodreads)

Many kids, it seemed, would find out that their parents were flawed, messed-up people later in life, and I didn’t appreciate getting to know it all so strong and early.

Experience #3 – Book – Landline by Rainbow Rowell

LandlineGeorgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened? (Goodreads)

Nobody’s lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen – because you love each other.

Experience #4 – Book – Every Day by David Levithan

Every DayEvery day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day. (Goodreads)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: We all want everything to be okay. We don’t even wish so much for fantastic or marvelous or outstanding. We will happily settle for okay, because most of the time, okay is enough.

So the good news is after said digging maybe I wasn’t so unaware after all. I really enjoyed each of the titles above. 4 or 5 stars to all of them. Consider them recommended if you haven’t read them yet, or are looking for some magical realism in your life. I do realize that maybe I can stretch and actually seek out some more magical realism titles and in turn, learn even more about this wonderful genre.

Do you have any favorites that I should check out? I have three picked out that I don’t have copies of but might pick up at the library at some point: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.



2 thoughts on “So what exactly is Magical Realism?”

  • I’ve enjoyed the few magical realism books I’ve read so far. I’m reading one now actually: Soledad by Angie Cruz*. It’s set in Brooklyn and is about a girl coming to terms with who she is and where she’s from…so it seems. I’m halfway through and I didn’t read the synopsis before I started. It’s great though and touches on a lot of issues immigrants and children of immigrants deal with. The magical realism is expressed in Soledad’s family’s beliefs and the dreamlike coma her mom is in. Great topic.
    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is apparently the definitive novel for magical realism. It’s an enjoyable read as well. I loved it. And, yea, Chocolat is often mentioned too. I’d like to read it as well.

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