Wendy MacIntyre, in The Applecross Spell, has written a provocative novel with a strong feminist and political focus. She uses magic imagery to highlight the female as a powerful pagan enchantress. Through difficult trial and painful revelation, protagonist Suzanne Clelland achieves an empowered state of self-actualization by finally realizing her potential as her mother's daughter. The mother-daughter bond is central to the novel; the mother's knowledge and power as wise-woman are passed on to the daughter, thereby demonstrating that "Nothing is ever destroyed (but)…transformed." At the root of the novel is the theme of personal liberation that accompanies revelatory experience - the creation of the true "fire out of which all things are born."
Males, however, are depicted unfavourably. The husband Murdo (murder?), for instance, represents oppressive male power and authority. MacIntyre does concede, however, that redemptive transformation is possible for particular (male) individuals. She complements her feminist focus (she also criticizes the current state of feminism as being commodified and splintered into rival factions) with commentary on racism, homosexuality, poverty, marriage, and family dynamics, the latter deriving from the writings of R.D. Laing. Family, for MacIntyre, bears the "instability of tectonic plates."
As a medievalist, I appreciated the historical backdrop - the references to magic, herbology, and the emphasis on the sense (primarily touch, smell, visions, and psychic sense), which refer to a medieval sensibility. MacIntyre's effortless writing style captures the reader with phrases like "Gulls swooped like manic angels" or "the innocent scent of the earth." The Applecross Spell is a politically progressive, intelligent and emotive book that leaves one wishing that the ideal of personal emancipation were indeed possible.
Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach was a finalist for the 2002 National Magazine Awards in poetry. Her work is forthcoming in Musings, a new anthology of Greek Canadian writing (Vehicule 2004)