Adventures in Reading

Sorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
January 12, 2008, 12:42 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction
“It is dreadfully flat here since you have been gone, and it only makes it worse to imagine all the things I shall be missing.”

Perhaps an odd interest, but one of the most interesting things to do at work is alphabetize. One, it is fulfilling to know that something is actually in order, but secondly, if you do this in a section you like you get a chance to sort through all of the old and new books. While working in the young adult section I stumbled across Sorcery & Cecilia being the correspondence of two Young Ladies of Quality regarding various Magical Scandals in London and the Country or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer. I found the cover of the novel striking and as I had just finished Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell I could not resist.

Written in epostilary style, Wrede assumes the role of Cecilia and Stevermer assumes the role of Kate and these two cousins exchange letters. Beginning on 8 April 1817, Cecilia writes from her father’s country manor in Essex while her cousin Kate is residing in London. It is a magical world and a college of magic exists in London. The two cousins, somewhat like Jane Austen’s Kitty and Lydia Bennett (though slightly more sensible and slightly less man crazy) fall into various scrapes but soon find themselves in the middle of a local magical power struggle. This struggle largely surrounds a certain lovely blue (and how I pictured it a Wedgewood) chocolate pot.

The book is definitely a light read and I consider it very much like a Regency Romance for younger and less mature audiences with some magic thrown in. I must confess though, that I regularly was tempted to put the book down and return it without finishing it. It is a cute and silly story, but where I appreciated Clarke’s serious research into the period and her incorporation of period language, Wrede and Stevermer is much more light hearted, in jest, and gaming.

However, upon concluding the book I found a new and delightful edge to Sorcery & Cecilia: it was a game. In the last few pages of the book the authors explain how this all started out as good fun where they were playing what they refer to as a “Letter Game.” The two women decided to play, but there was no discussion of plot, themes, character – no structure whatsoever. Wrede wrote the first letter and thus set the time, place, and the idea of magic. For six months the authors wrote back and forth without ever discussing plot points and at the end of this time they cleaned up the letters and submitted them for publication.

I admit this tickled me and I have a new appreciation for the book. Shortly after the holidays I met with a friend at lunch and we discussed going on Pretend Dates. This is something you do with someone you already know, you schedule a meeting time, but then assume other roles and have this date with alternate personalities. The letters are very much the same (though certainly more extended and involved) and perhaps it sounds silly, but I know I spent a great deal of my childhood pretending I was someone I was not. Now, whether that was a witch, Robin Hood, or a librarian [1] I always had a good time, but when did I became too old for those sorts of games? [2]

Cecilia & Sorcery is definitely a book I would suggest to younger patrons of the store. In addition, their are at least two follow up collections. The next one in the series is The Grand Tour.

[1] It is true. As a small child I would play library.

[2] Admittedly, the last time I did something like this was fairly recently when for a final exam I had to have an imaginary conversation between the Northern Renaissance artists van Eyck and Campin.

1 Comment

hey your book was cool it made my head spin from wondering what will happen next.Man you guys are good.
– nikkiey

Comment by nikkiey

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