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Sarah's Library

I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad).  The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.

Currently reading

The Last Honeytrap
Louise Lee
Progress: 100/346 pages
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

The Witch and Other Tales Re-told by Jean Thompson

The Witch and Other Tales Re-told - Jean Thompson


2/2 - This is a book of short stories, fairy tales retold into realistic (the first one was, at least) stories of modern life. As each story is individual I will review them individually.

The first story was The Witch and it was a retelling of Hansel and Gretel with the witch played by an old woman who takes in foster kids. The children are Jo and Kerry, whose father neglects them daily by leaving them in the car alone for hours while he spends his days in a bar. They try to find their way home but end up getting picked up by the DCFS (Department of Children/Family Services?) who place them with the 'witch' while they try to work things out with the children's father.

I thought this was a very intelligent way of telling the Hansel and Gretel story with a realistic spin on it. This kind of thing happens all the time (if you believe what SVU tells you) - children removed from their family home because the parents are deemed to be unfit, they're placed in a foster home but are mistreated by their new family even worse than before. To be continued...

The second story was Inamorata, a retelling of Cinderella from the guy's point of view. The original story of Cinderella is complicated here by the fact that the 'prince' has permanent brain damage from a car accident when he was a child that has left him with random memory blackouts. Every so often he will suddenly lose time and find himself in a different location or situation than where he was only 'moments' before. The story follows his attempts to find the girl who left her shoe behind and left him feeling inordinately happy, for reasons he can't remember. To be continued...

The third story was Candy and I believe it was Red Riding Hood. It didn't really bear that much similarity to the original tale except that in a couple of scenes she was on her way to Grandma's house and the final words of the story were that 'she was going to gobble him up alive'. So, she starts off the story as innocent Red Riding Hood, but by the time it was finished she had become the wolf. An interesting take on the story. To be continued...

The fourth story was Faith and was The Pied Piper. I didn't like it nearly as much the previous three because of the strong religious overtones. The story revolved around a priest and the church he was in charge of and his misgivings relating to a 'land agent' who was taking most of the town's children away to begin a new settlement. I don't really know the story of The Pied Piper, but this didn't end with the 'Piper' as the bad guy as I would have imagined it would. The children weren't killed by the 'Piper', it was a band of brigands who slaughtered them and took all the supplies they had been carrying with them to the new settlement. To be continued...

3/2 - The fifth story was clearly Goldilocks and the Three Bears from the title, Three, onwards. I didn't find it particularly interesting. It read a bit like a 'family drama' in which nothing much happened. The mother leaves one night after having had enough of the father. We then spend some pages learning about each of the three bears, the children she left behind. It becomes clear over a slightly disastrous Thanksgiving dinner that the father wants the mother to come back, although he hadn't made any effort to reason with her prior to this disastrous dinner. Each of the children make an attempt to draw her back to the family, but only the youngest thinks of going to see her. She agrees that she has missed the family, even the father, and that it's time she came home, but the child decides that he will stay away, that it's his turn to have time away from the father. A bit slow and boring. To be continued...

The sixth story's origin was a mystery to me until the very end. Finally I realised it was a truly twisted version of Rumplestiltskin. It becomes obvious why an overprotective father is so worried about all the things that could happen to his teenage daughter, because he knows what drunk teenage boys are capable of, and now the savage acts of his past have come back to haunt him. A good story with a bit of a mystery working out where the fairy tale came into things, and what made the father so paranoid about what might happen to his daughter. It played on a number of my own fears and I completely side with the father, he had very good reasons for his paranoia. To be continued...

The seventh story's origin was even more of a mystery than the last one, I'm still not sure whether I guessed right - Cinderella. An 'ordinary' woman (Edie) is plucked out of her normal life by a rich, intellectual man (Milo) who treats like a queen compared to the deadbeat guys she's used. They marry and she's happy to begin with, but he is evasive about many parts of his past and tries to keep his numerous ex-wives secret. She becomes suspicious and manages to get into his locked study using the old credit card trick. While he's away on business she gets into his computer and finds evidence that show exactly how many women he's been hiding from her, and the fact that not all of them are in his past. When he gets back from his business trip and realises what she's done he becomes enraged and threatening, she escapes into his study and locks herself inside while she does further investigating, eventually Skypeing his first wife. He manages to break down the study door and she turns the computer around so his first wife can attempt to calm him down through Skype. Unfortunately he hasn't looked after himself and his cholesterol/blood pressure are dangerously high, add that to the conniption he's worked himself into and he dies of a heart attack with his ex-wife still watching through Skype. At the end, Edie realises that she would be far happier living the life she was born into - middle class. Clearly 'Cinderella' doesn't always want to be rescued, sometimes she's happy in her middle class situation. To be continued...


4/2 - The last story was definitely my favourite! A woman, Ellen, who has had some mental health issues that involved her hallucinating a sexual relationship between herself and the local reverend. One of her five sisters, Sheila, lives with her in order to keep a watch over her, make sure she's taking her meds and not having any relapses. One day a stray dog is found outside their house and despite Sheila's protests about the risk of fleas or rabies Ellen adopts him and names him Prince. Ellen and Prince get closer and closer over the next few days, Prince starts out sleeping on the porch, is then moved to the basement, then the kitchen and finally Ellen's bed. Prince defends Ellen from some mean neighbourhood kids and they promise retribution. One day, after a trip around the block in her father's car with Prince (her first attempt to drive in many years) Sheila confronts Ellen as she's getting out. This is the moment the neighbourhood kids decide to exact their revenge, shooting Sheila dead. All this time, since almost their first meeting Prince has been talking to Ellen. To start with Ellen thinks she's hallucinating again and tries to ignore what she's hearing. Eventually it becomes clear, and Prince admits, that Ellen isn't hallucinating, that there's some kind of magic going on. This is the only story that involves any kind of real magic, but it was the inclusion of a wonderful dog who needed help then going on to help his human that made this my favourite. I have no idea what fairy tale this originates from. Anyone got any ideas?

Looking at some of the other reviews/ratings I'm in the minority in that I really enjoyed these retellings of classic fairy tales. I'm giving this 3.5 stars, but I'm feeling generous so I've rounded up to four. If you like fairy tale retellings I recommend you give this a go.


PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A Book of Short Stories