OPHELIA (from Hamlet, Act IV scene IX)
There’s fennel for you, and columbines.—There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.—There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. They say he made a good end (sings) For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy—
That’s one of my favorite bits from Hamlet. I have favorites within Hamlet. I just think the character is a pathetic whinger.
It’s the symbols. I love symbolism. In this case flowers and herbs are likely as medicinal as they were moral rebukes though 16th century folk aren’t likely to have benefitted much from herbs. The church had done a good job of demonizing anyone (and by “one”, I mean “woman”) who practiced medicine via herbs.
I thought about Ophelia‘s little monologue when I sat down to write about the book, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, because one of the main characters practices a form of magic using plants and herbs she grows in her back yard garden.
It’s a delicious little read. Southern simmered and magically realistic, it centers on the Waverly family and the strange magic that emanates through them via their family roots – figuratively and from their enchanted garden.
The garden is a hoot. It writes thank you notes and is watched over by a petulant apple tree that throws its fruit at people, trying to get them to eat of it and dream about the greatest moment in their lives.
Something that the Waverly family strives to prevent. The sisters scold the tree and bury the apples that it throws. Eating them is no joke because the greatest moments in the lives of most people are their deaths.
In typical women’s literature fashion, there are rivalries and man trouble. Sex looms and lives are … not so much transformed but freed of self-restraint and resumed.
I don’t want to say too much more and give it away as the story is formulaic enough that it telegraphs a tad bit more than it should, but I throughly enjoyed it. Coming in at 286 pages, it’s light and warm and perfect for the late summer.