The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag
Published by Allison & Busby
18th February 2016
The Cambridge University witches have been meeting for as long as the university has been around - over 900 years - they meet mainly to discuss books, though they do so on the roofs of the colleges and they drink hot chocolate while up there. The members are limited and selective, only those invited can join. In 2014 this includes Kat (a great spell-caster & professor of mathematics), George (a professor of Classics & all-round witch who seems to have no special skills), Amandine (retired French Literature professor and psychic, Kat's mother) & Noa (student of history - who sees people's secrets and can't help but say them). Cosima, Kat's sister, is the chef/owner of Gustare, the best cafe in Cambridge, where they group meets every month. Cosima is also a witch and, when she begins casting spells to attract a mate (being desperate to conceive) everything starts to go wrong - she sets off a chain of events that turns each of the witches' worlds upside down...
This is the third book I’ve read by Menna van Praag and I enjoyed it as much as the others that she has written, though The House at the End of Hope Street is still my favourite. She always evokes a touch of magic to her stories, but beware, as there is always someone out there who wants to take all the magic for themselves. This book is set in Cambridge and revolves around a group of witches of all ages who meet as part of a book group. Amandine is grieving the loss of her husband, and her daughter Kat doesn’t know how to get her to move on with her life, though Kat has worries of her own, her husband has been seemingly distant of late; could it be that he is having an affair? When Kat meets Noa, who can see people’s secrets, she decides to ask her for help in discovering what her husband is keeping from her, but no sooner do the two conspire to do just that, then Noa meets the seemingly enigmatic artist Santiago and her powers seem to vanish as she falls under his spell. Meanwhile Cosima decides that she needs to have a baby and conducts all manner of spells into her baking in order to find the right man, though as we all know, forced magic usually comes with tragic consequences.
Menna van Praag writes magical tales with a touch of sourcery and romance entwined about them and The Witches of Cambridge is no exception to this rule. I loved the thought of the book group hovering over the university with their hot chocolate to drink safe in the knowledge that hardly anyone ever looks up, and therefore won’t see them there. My only criticism of her stories is that they sometimes feel like they are actually set in America and not in England and I usually have to remind myself of this whilst reading them, but don’t let that detract you from another great story.
Miss Chapter x