by Erick Setiawan
I don't read much of magical realism, though maybe I should change that. Magic abounds in this novel, and yet it seems to be set in modern times and no one in the town seems to take any notice of it. It's a great escape from real life, to enter not only a fictional world, but a fictional world with magic. Some have called this book a fairy tale, and I suppose it could be in the extremely basic sense of the genre, but I think I'll stick to magical realism. (Can you tell that "magical realism" is a new term I just picked up on today? ;) )
Enough blabbering. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt for Meridia when she was being oppressed by Eva, I cried with Permony when Malin was tormenting her, I detached with Elias when Eva was attacking him with her bees. The elements of magic in the book fit so well with the actual happenings that it was not questioned; it almost seemed like the natural state of the world. Eva's bees, Gabriel's mists, Ravenna's ghosts, Meridia's fireflies-- all were symbolic and helped to enhance the character rather than take away from it.
The story itself was your typical woman tortured by mother-in-law, but Erick put it on a whole new plane. Sure your mother-in-law can be awful, but can she reduce you to a hobbling, hunchbacked servant? Can she convince your once faithful and loving husband to resent and betray you? It's amazing how Erick takes such a simple concept and adds such flavor to it that it's almost not recognizable.
The language of the book flows so smoothly that it's almost melodic. I loved the author's use of words; so many new words that I can weave into my own conversations. Metaphors were brought to life; sometimes I wasn't sure if an event was really happening or if it was just being used to show the emotions of the characters. I love this passage: "Purged of the hatred of decades, the house jettisoned its yoke and floated on enchanted air." It is very confident and moving writing in more ways than one.
I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about this book, mostly because it's not a genre I am used to. But it was given as a gift, and I am not one to snub gifts! Plus the cover is very attractive to the eye. I am very glad that I read this book, and now it has opened me up to an entire library of new books to read.