Menna van Praag’s The Dress Shop of Dreams was a great book for me to read and review. I mentioned how I felt that, in a society driven mainly by scientific fact and logical reasoning, it’s nice to believe that perhaps magic does still exist. I was touched by the story this author had weaved, and although I don’t personally believe in magic, I do believe that amazing things happen to people all the time.
I reached out to Menna to ask her how she thinks the kind of magic in her book translates into real life; her answer gives not just insight into how one can move out of the state of constant discontent we are encouraged to live in and into a state of joy, but also into how lovely her book is.
Why We All Need a Little Magic in Our Lives, by Menna van Praag
Real life can be bland, boring and sometimes bleak. Our lives are shaped by routine: get up, eat, go to work, get home, do housework, go to bed. We never open our closets to see a little sprinkling of Narnian snow on the shoulders of shirts. We never meet talking rabbits running late or grinning Cheshire cats. We never find fairies dancing at the bottom of our gardens. But still we want to believe in the possibility of magic, or at least, I do.
Do you remember when you were a child who only saw a tiny slice of the world so everything and anything seemed possible? My favorite book as a little girl was The Water Babies and I held onto my belief that there might, just might, be little being living in every river and stream long into my teenage years. Of course, I never told my friends, who were by then engaged in the important real-life pursuits of putting on makeup and flirting with boys. Had I been growing up in Victorian Britain though, I would have been in fine company, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) who believed in fairies so firmly that he wrote a book about it.
Doyle’s life was bleak (five family members died during WWI) so it’s hardly surprising that he’d want to believe in something lovely and light to help lift him up from all that darkness. Beatrix Potter’s fiancée died and perhaps that gave impetus to her magical outlook on life. But, even when life isn’t bleak, when it’s just a little boring or bland, just the very idea of magic is enough to lift our spirits, fill our hearts and bring a secret little smile to our lips.
Miracles happen. Ones that are man-made and ones we can’t explain. And when they do, I rejoice. But they don’t happen often enough for my liking (at least one miracle in the world every day would be lovely) and so I have to make some up. It’s probably why I became a writer, so I could live in magical made-up worlds most of the time. I write to lift my own heart and those of my readers.
Personally, I don’t understand why people urge others to be “realistic” – usually just another word for “pessimistic” – as if expecting the worst will somehow cushion the blow if the worst actually happens. In my experience it’s just the opposite. Optimistic people tend to bounce back from bad things much better than pessimistic ones. They also make friends and find love more easily. And, of course, optimistic people lead much happier lives in general while not worrying and anticipating awful events around every corner.
Real life can be difficult enough, being too realistic will only make you depressed. The best way to deal with reality, in my experience, is to bring as much magic to it as possible!
More information is available on the author’s website.
First published on Sahar’s Blog on 5 March 2015.