Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fairy tales with a facelift

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a maze of a story. It starts as a competition between an author who's a serial killer (the women in his stories never make it out alive) and a woman who challenges him to change his ways through a variety of competing tales. This woman is not his wife, but his wife also becomes ensnared in the stories as each character tries to challenge their ideas of love and relationships and individual humanity.

It helps to know that the story is the author's interpretation of the Bluebeard fairy tale, which is the one where Bluebeard keeps a room full of the heads of his previous wives. It's also related to Reynardine, which is a British iteration of a similar story. And of course, that's where we get the title and the main character's name: Mr. Fox. But whose wit and craftiness will win out? Mr. Fox? Mrs. Fox? The mysterious and possibly fictional Mary Foxe? We may never know, but the chase is the thing in this book.

Happily Ever After If you like the idea of retold fairy tales, then you should definitely check out Happily Ever After, an anthology of fairy tales retold by modern authors. As with any anthology, there are good parts and...less good parts, but there should be a story for everyone. Sadly, I didn't have the time to read the whole thing so I cherry-picked some authors and stories that I really wanted to read. Neil Gaiman writes a poignant version of a troll underneath a bridge. Susanna Clarke takes us back to the fairies she did so well in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. But my favorite was an interesting re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood set in the 1920s ("And In Their Glad Rags" by Genevieve Valentine), and Kelly Link's story about a magical bag in which an entire village lives was exceedingly enjoyable.

Lovers of fairy tales (or even faery tails) should find something to love here.

Review by Danny Hanbery

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