With the days getting shorter and winter fast approaching, what could be better than a bit of magic in our lives? I’m delighted to welcome Lauren B. Davis to stay in with me on Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me all about her latest book.
Staying in with Lauren B. Davis
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Lauren. Thank you so much for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I’ve brought The Grimoire of Kensington Market with me. It’s my eighth book and the most recent. With winter coming on, I’m hoping it will be the perfect book for an evening by the fire, cup of tea (or brandy) at hand, dog (or cat) snuggled next to us. It’s an adventure to transport you to a world of magic, of Wise Women, flying caribou, and villages made of clouds. Plus, the dog, Badger, doesn’t die. Ha! I say that because a journalist called me for an interview and thanked me for not killing off the dog. “What is it about writers,” she said, “they always kill the dog!!” So, to be clear, no dog in any book of mine will ever die.
(Well, I’m very glad to hear that Lauren – even if I am a cat lover. I must say I do like the sound of The Grimoire of Kensington Market!)
I’m a huge fan of fairy and folk tales, and this book, although it was inspired by the death by suicide of my two brothers who were addicts, takes its form from Han Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. I thought that mirror in the tale, which makes everything beautiful look ugly and everything ugly look beautiful, was such a perfect metaphor for addiction, which those of us in recovery call ‘a disease of perception.’
(Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry to hear of your brothers Lauren. What an incredible way to remember them through your writing.)
It’s a journey not only into the heart of magic and winter, but also into the heart of a woman as she discovers her courage and the wild, undeniable power of love.
I think it sounds fabulous. Tell us a bit more about what we can expect from an evening in with The Grimoire of Kensington Market.
Well, you can expect magic. You can expect adventure. You can expect a bit of humor. You can expect the unexpected.
If I may quote from the review in The Toronto Star:
Imagine downtown Toronto transformed into a fairytale world, a city where streets contract at will and charmless laneways contain portals into magic underworlds. Now picture a tiny bookshop hidden on a side street in Kensington Market, crammed with books that glow like neon. You’ll get a feel for the kind of shape-shifting landscape Lauren B. Davis conjures in her latest novel, The Grimoire of Kensington Market.
Maggie is a recovering addict, one of the few surviving “pipers” ravaged by the mind-altering drug elysium. Her brother Kyle is less fortunate. He’s in thrall to Srebrenka, the evil and powerful ice queen who controls the local drug trade. When Maggie — now living a quiet life as the proprietor of the magical bookshop — receives a call for help from her missing brother, she must make an agonizing decision. Should she descend through the dark underworld to confront Srebrenka and rescue Kyle, even at the risk of sliding back into the grips of elysium herself?
In this compelling novel, Davis manages several feats at once. At heart, it’s the sort of dark fairytale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen. In Davis’ altered world, we meet a crone named Mother Ratigan, a pair of cloaked ravens, and a family of castaway thieves living in the gloom of a decrepit manor house. Time and again, Maggie is left to her own devices, with only a few magical aids at her disposal. By relying on her own wisdom and intuition, Maggie’s quest is a deeply moral tale. At pivotal moments in the narrative, she is forced to name and confront her past, unpacking her childhood back story of trauma and neglect. Davis does a fine job balancing these fraught moments of tension with lighter, magical scenes, such as her various luxurious sleepovers at mystical hotels and loving monologues with her canine sidekick Badger.
Beneath the fairytale lies a probing exploration of the current opioid crisis. Davis highlights how the collapse of social supports and the marginalization of addicts creates the perfect storm, hollowing out inner-city Toronto and leaving wounded orphans and ruined lives in its wake. When Maggie reaches her final destination to confront Srebrenka, the author spins the kinds of pyrotechnics appropriate to the climax of such a dramatic quest.
Davis takes creative risks here and Maggie is a likeable and familiar character. But it’s her deft handling of the ravages of addiction that makes The Grimoire of Kensington Market such a timely and important read.
(Wow – that’s quite a review. You must be so thrilled. It’s certainly persuaded me to add The Grimoire of Kensington Market to my TBR pile.)
What else have you brought along and why?
I’d bring my dog, if no one minds. His name is Bailey and he’s my muse and writing companion. Plus, as you can see above… he reads.
(Now I know why you didn’t kill off the dog in The Grimoire of Kensington Market. Bailey is such a cutie!)
I’m a nut for music, and while I was writing The Grimoire of Kensington Market I played a lot of Icelandic pieces, particularly the work of Olafur Arnalds, Johann Johannsson and Hildur Gudnadottir so I’d bring them with me. They are all perfectly suited to dreams, writing, reading, and good conversation about the things that really matter.
(Gosh, I have to confess I hadn’t heard of any of these musicians but they are most welcome along too.)
And perhaps something with pomegranate in it… but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.
Now you have me totally intrigued! Thank you for staying in with me to tell me more about The Grimoire of Kensington Market Lauren. I’m absolutely hooked and want to read it straight away!
The Grimoire of Kensington Market
The downtown core of Toronto is being consumed by Elysium, a drug that allows its users to slip through the permeable edges of this world and then consumes them utterly. Peddled by the icy Srebrenka, few have managed to escape the drug and its dealer. But Maggie has. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,”The Grimoire of Kensington Market is the story of Maggie, guardian of The Grimoire bookstore, which expands and contracts as stories are born… or die.
About Lauren B. Davis
Author image courtesy of Helen Tansey at Sundari Photography
Lauren B. Davis is the author of The Grimoire of Kensington Market; Against a Darkening Sky; The Empty Room, named one of the “Best Books of the Year” by the National Post, the Winnipeg Free Press, Amazon and the Coast; and Our Daily Bread, longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named one of the “Best Books of the Year” by the Globe & Mail and the Boston Globe.
Her other books include the bestselling and critically acclaimed novels The Radiant City, a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and The Stubborn Season, one of the Top 15 Bestselling First Novels by Amazon and Books in Canada, as well as two short story collections, An Unrehearsed Desire and Rat Medicine & Other Unlikely Curatives.
Her short fiction has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards and the ReLit Award, and she is the recipient of two Mid-Career Writer Sustaining grants from the Canadian Council for the Arts. Lauren was born in Montreal and now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.