The best books to lead you gently into the world of magic realism

Anne Holloway Author Of Korakas
By Anne Holloway

The Books I Picked & Why

Island Magic

By Elizabeth Goudge

Book cover of Island Magic

Why this book?

I read this book as a teenager, and it was the writing rather than the story itself which made a huge impression on me. It made me feel afraid in parts, not because the book is a scary story, but the location is so real, I can feel the presence of spirits in the paths that Rachell walks! The island itself is as much a character as Rachell, the kick-ass heroine. It is about pain and loss and love and passion and, magic. 

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By Toni Morrison

Book cover of Beloved

Why this book?

I read this book when I had just had my first child. I was living far from home and away from family. I read at night while I was waiting to give the baby her late night feed. It is a ghost story but not as we know it. About a mother, slavery, pain and loss, revenge/redemption. The writing is beautiful and easy. It made me scared and it made cry, and it made me angry. If you haven’t read any Toni Morrison I think this is a good place to start – and then keep going through her whole catalogue!

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The Metamorphosis

By Franz Kafka, Stanley Corngold

Book cover of The Metamorphosis

Why this book?

Given to me by my sister – who in truth was the person who supplied all the books I read in my teens. I quite simply believed that Gregor had become a beetle and accepted it as a straightforward story - and then as I became older, I started to unpick it as something more complex than that. I think a lot of people know about this story but many never read it. It is relatively short (a long short story?). I really believed Gregor’s plight and the emotions of his family. I have since read a lot more by Kafka and I enjoy the way he weaves his narrative – nothing wasted – leading me through complex ideas and thought processes, simply telling a story.

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The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

By Steven Sherrill

Book cover of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

Why this book?

I found this in a second-hand bookstore in Wales – the title fascinated me, probably because of the Greek Myth connection! Once you suspend your disbelief and accept that a minotaur is working as a grill chef, it’s a wonderful story about the loneliness of an outsider, being an outcast, and how he finds love. A sad book though!

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Midnight's Children

By Salman Rushdie

Book cover of Midnight's Children

Why this book?

This was on my reading list as part of my studies for a degree in English Literature. I became completely absorbed in the characters and the way their story unfolded – each born at midnight on the night of India’s partition. I really enjoyed the meandering journey of the narrative, let yourself follow without questioning it! The story is an allegory of India’s transition, and I learned a lot about India’s history, prior to this I had been ignorant of how Pakistan had been formed, and the way in which ordinary people were uprooted from their homes, how communities who had lived in harmony were segregated according to their religion. In true writerly fashion, Rushdie showed me, rather than told me. And magic exists in this book too.

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