Tales from the Garden
Sally Cronin is a superb short story writer. Her work effortlessly uses an uncluttered economical style to create charming classic narratives; rich in description and punctuated by subtle humour.
Tales From The Garden is a book of 9 short but delightful modern fairy stories and concludes with her mother’s reminiscences of a lifetime of gardens. It is fitting Sally finishes her book with the tale of her mother’s life because the stories contained in Tales from the Garden are meant to be passed down the generations.
While reading I kept falling into reverie. Sometimes I felt like a youngster. Then I could hear my grandmother’s voice reading the stories to me at bedtime.
At other times, my point of view abruptly shifted; often prompted by Sally’s gentle unobtrusive humour, unashamedly aimed at adults. Now I was a parent or even a grandparent reading the story in a cosy lamp lit bedroom on a long winter evening, breaking only to steal swift affectionate glances over the top of the book, watching the new generation, wide–eyed with wonder, fighting not to fall asleep.
At such times, it felt like I was not reading a story at all. Rather, it was though I knew it by heart and was now passing down some precious whispered secret as it had once been passed to me.
So what is it about this book that casts such a spell?
As the title says the individual but thematically related stories centre round a verdant summer garden with stone statuary, old and new. This magical place has a life of its own, hidden from the mortal owners, except for once every 500 years when the two worlds collide – no doubt precipitated by the long anticipated return of the Emperor. And just who that is, you will have to find out for yourself.
Guarded for centuries by two stone lions the garden is not only a place of sanctuary for wild creatures, but also shelters a bona-fide fairy kingdom within an old magnolia tree. Comic elements are introduced into the stories in the form of a rock band, who hang out with a totally unexpected hippy. The rock band was banned from playing at fairy balls because… And now, perhaps I am giving too much away.
Queen Filigree, who rules Magia, told me in no uncertain terms she would much prefer you to discover the adventures of her subjects and the garden’s motley denizens for yourself, rather than learn them second-hand from an old gas-bag who should know better.
As ever your majesty, you wish is my command.
But being an old gas-bag, as you so kindly pointed out, let me just have one final word on the last chapter.
In my heart, I felt the book is really all about Mollie Coleman. An ordinary woman of extraordinary life and beloved mother who just like a fairy queen, once upon a time, and long, long ago, spun a spell on a little girl who grew up to write…
Check out Sally’s Website: Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life