Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sarah Addison Allen - First Frost

Readers fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel, GARDEN SPELLS. Now the tale of the Waverley women is to be revisited with a magical sequel. 
Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, heralded by a strange old man appearing with a beaten-up suitcase. He has stories to tell, stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever. But the Waverleys have enough trouble on their hands. Quiet Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley's Candies, but it's nothing like she thought it would be, and it's slowly taking over her life. Claire's wild sister Sydney, still trying to leave her past behind, is about to combust with her desire for another new beginning. And Sydney's fifteen-year-old daughter Bay has given her heart away to the wrong boy and can't get it back. 
From the author of the New York Times bestselling sensation GARDEN SPELLS, FIRST FROST is magical and atmospheric, taking readers back into the lives of the gifted Waverley women - back to their strange garden and temperamental apple tree, back to their house with a personality of its own, back to the men who love them fiercely - proving that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It's where the real story begins.

Comment: This book was given to me as a Christmas gift and I'm very glad because it's the follow up of one of the most intriguing books I've read, Garden Spells. That book was really special, the author's debut and her voice has had a great development. I still prefer that first book out of them all, so getting this one would be reconnecting with all those fascinating characters again.

This book is set years after the happenings in the first one. Both Claire and Sydney are now happily married, Claire has a daughter, Sydney has her hair salon and the Waverly magic is still going on. The sisters (and the family) are only waiting for the first frost, which means the house and they will finally have some peace of mind and problems won't get out of proportion. But Bay, Sydney's daughter - now a teenager - has fallen in love with the only boy she shouldn't, there's a mysterious man in town, Claire's new venture isn't as happy as she wanted it to be and Sydney still misses something in her life. Will things settle after the first frost of the season?

As always, it's such a delight to read these stories, the author writes contemporary, small town, but there is the touch of magic realism that makes all stories very unique and make us dream a bit if only magic was possible. It's magic in the sense of witches and spells in a PNR environment, but there's special things linked with the Waverly house, the things in it, the Waverly family members. It's interesting how things aren't too much, which would make this a rather silly story for a contemporary fiction book, but just little special things that have a twist, like Claire's candy business, something she only started to help cure her daughter's cough but that spread and now everyone buys the candy for one reason or another. Or Sydney's hair color changing depending on her moods and wishes.

This book follows all Waverly women with their personal difficulties and challenges but at the end it's exactly family bonds that make everything work out well.
Claire has always been my favorite character because I really liked how her relationship with Tyler was developing. Now they are married and it's great to see they are happy. The same for Sydney and Harry. I feel very glad the author didn't use their relationships as crutches to make the story develop. 
Probably the best thing is the author's talent in putting things on the page in a way that just makes it sweet and easy to go through. I like how she writes in a way that informs us calmly of how things are instead of making the characters act and explain all their actions all the time.

The plot isn't complicated... in fact, it's pretty simple but it feels richer because we have access to all the characters' motivations and fears and how that always shapes what's in our hearts. In this story it just seems more because the characters are special. Sydney and Claire's problems and doubts are solved but always with them inferring in their conscience they aren't alone to go through them and trust and love from those you care about helps a lot.
Obviously this all means that, at the end of things, we don't actually have a lot besides feelings to sort out and to make us interested in the book. It's very quirky and cute to imagine but not always easy to accept especially if more people seem to have a special thing outside the family. Not unlikely but there's an expectation about things that isn't met the way we would wish for.

As for Bay's sub plot, it was interesting, we learned more about Sydney in the process too but there was still a question mark to make things mysterious as about what could happen.
I just think this is a sweet story, perfect to not think too much but definitely not a silly one that only makes you think you're wasting your time. I think the author has a clear idea and the words and characters simply work out well and that is always great.
Grade: 8/10

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