Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

"The Witches of Cambridge" by Menna van Praag (Allison and Busby, 2016)

The events and dramas are standard (other than being set in evocative Cambridge), and reported in a standard way, except that some of the characters have minor magical powers - so minor that they often seem gratuitous. Maybe "witch lit" is fashionable. Most of the women are chasing men, the love sometimes unrequited. One plotline seems to depend on one witch (Kat) not realising that another witch (her sister) might use magic. And George's confession on p.246 isn't really fair to the reader.

Two-thirds through, it becomes more eventful, which helps compensate for the lack of depth. I thought the Theo+Héloise relationship was the best-handled of the pairings. On the minus side, I doubt that an advanced math student would say "Ready to discuss the finer points of complex calculus?" to his prof. When on p.258 I read "His favourite equation floats into his head" then an equation (fourier series?) is shown, I laughed. Here are some extracts -

  • Héloise looks out at the park, at the trees against the Tupperware sky, at the light drizzle beginning to fall. And suddenly she feels more alone than she's ever felt in her life, filled with a deep black emptiness heavier even than the day Francois died. As if every moment of despair over the past two years had been spun together, woven into a blanket that falls over Héloise, suffocating her, breath by shallow breath (p.46)
  • Kat feels tears filling her eyes and darkness seeping into her chest. Don't. Don't. Hold it together. Be strong. Be strong. Just for now. Just until you're alone again. And, because Kat has always been good at hiding her feelings - how else can you be secretly in love with your best friend for so long? - she manages it now. Kat knows that once she's back in her room at Trinity College, once she's slammed the door shut behind her, she'll fall to the floor and sob. She will sob until her throat hurts nearly as much as her heart. But it doesn't matter. It only matters that she doesn't do it now. (p.114)
  • George can barely contain his excitement. How did this happen? How does he have a date - is it a date? He certainly hopes so - with the beautiful and supremely talented Cosima Rubens? He's not entirely certain it is a date; after all, she's still technically married and, given his long history of romantic disappointment, he wonders if he might have got it wrong. He's also not exactly sure how they went so suddenly from being friendly acquaintances to potential partners, but for some reason it feels sort of right, so he's prepared to go with it. (p.122)

At the end there's a list of Cosima's Flowers and Herbs, A Few of Cosima's Baking Spells (i.e. recipes), a Conversion Table section, and a list of The Gods and Goddesses.

Other reviews

  • goodreads
  • Nicole Overmoyer (I think I would have loved the book if it had more magic, more witchcraft. I liked the book because the witches are relatable and I do understand. I finished it, because it was just interesting enough, but I can’t say that I’m going to read it again.)
  • thelitbitch
  • heroesandheartbreakers
  • Jennifer Jensen (I started to lose patience with the back history of the women and was hoping for more of a plot.)

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