rating: 4 of 5 stars
I both liked and disliked this book for the same reason: I have heard most of these stories before. What I like is that I am proud to have heard them before; I heard (or rather, “read”) them in my Myth and Fairy Tales class at Rochester, and in encountering so many of them again, I experienced a wave of nostalgia. Reading these stories reminded me of why I enjoyed that class so much: it was because in their foreignness, they take tales that seem so familiar and “American” and make you, the reader/listener, wonder whether or not the roots of the tales were from another time and another culture, or whether the roots of the tales are even more basic than that: whether they merely reflect lessons, morals, and basic human desires that are common across cultures and time. Or perhaps the different versions show how the lessons and morals change over time, or how their packaging changes. That was what I loved about that class, and reading this book took me straight back to that academic love of literature.
Of course, I couldn’t help but dislike the book for exactly the same reason: I had heard it all before. Perhaps if I had never taken that course at Rochester, I would be absolutely enthralled by this book. I do love fairy tales, and I love seeing different perspectives and different versions of the same fairy tale. Although these all had odd names and seemingly odd origins, many of them incorporated the fairy tales we know best: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel; even Rumplestiltskin and Jack and the Beanstalk showed traces in these stories.
For those interested in foreign culture and fairy tales, this is definitely a worthwhile read. I can understand why an author such as Angela Carter would take it upon herself to edit such a novel. She is one to embrace the peculiar and the foreign. It will be a wonder if Margaret Atwood does not do something similar, in time.
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