Happy Monday! Today I’ll talk about my most recent reads: one historical fiction, the other part historical, part family drama.
After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
I don’t know why but I had been postponing for a couple of months, even though it looked interesting and just my kind of historical read. What I loved the most about this book was the context and the location: The Dakota building in New York. I learned a lot about its history and I wish I could have seen what it looked like back then (in person, I already spent too much time checking out pictures yesterday haha).
This time I don’t have any complaints about the importance of one storyline over the other. Although, of course, the past is always more appealing to me, I also wanted to know what would happen to Bailey, who I really liked despite her flaws. The mystery was interesting although slightly predictable, but there was something unexpected that I’m sure felt super satisfying for everyone.
All in all, this was a good and atmospheric read that I would recommend for fans of historical fiction and Kate Morton-esque books. It didn’t amaze me, but I’d read another book by the autor without a doubt.
Netgalley, Dutton, 2017
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
Practical Magic is one of my favorite films ever, but I will talk about that later this month. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure about The Rules of Magic. I didn’t enjoy the first book, Practical Magic, and I thought it would be the same for this one. But my love for the film is still strong and I was curious. So I decided to try it out. This is a prequel, so it tells the story of Aunt Frances and Jet (and their brother Vincent).
At first, I was sure I wasn’t going to like it, but I decided to keep on reading. And you know what? I ended up enjoying The Rules of Magic. It’s not my favorite book ever, but I think Alice Hoffman’s writing is gorgeous and despite feeling like the story has some wasted potential, the book started off pretty bland for me but progressed into a beautiful tale. And yeah, I guess I love it when stories connect together (think it like watching Rogue One and knowing how A New Hope begins), so overall it was a positive experience for me.
Still, when I’m reading a book about witches, I want more magic, I want more spells. Because I’ve always felt that despite certain elements, these stories could be about ordinary families too. And believe me, I have nothing against that, I love family dramas. But witches are more fun.
Edelweiss, Simon & Schuster, 2017