I like collections of stories that feel like fairy tales for adults. I like books that are darkly funny. I like Dan Rhodes, he is one of my favourite authors. We then have I left reading his collection ‘Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love’ for such a long time when I knew it would combine all three of these things? Well, if I am being truly honest, I forgot I had it. It wasn’t until I spotted it when looking for another book that I saw it and knew it must be read pronto. It also was one of the books that inspired the recent cull, too many gems I really wanted to read surrounded by those I kinda, maybe one day might read.
‘Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love’ rather unsurprisingly given its title is a collection of love stories with a twist, brilliant, just my thing. If you are thinking these will be stories with a happy ending, you would be wrong. Like the proper versions of the fairytales we know and love from childhood, which are indeed much more sinister in their original form than Ladybird or Disney would have you believe, these are all wonderfully dark with some vicious and also hilarious twists as the tales develop. In fact the blurb of the book (I only tend to read these after I have finished a book, random fact, like I do other reviews and thoughts) does say this is ‘a homage to the brothers Grimm’.
There are seven stories in the collection all with one main theme, they all have a wonderful sense of magic, be they set in forests like ‘Glass Eyes’ or in the modern world as ‘The Violoncello’. We have tales of unrequited love between old men and young beauties, old hags who magically entice young lovers, men willing to literally become instruments for women to play with, women so obsessed their lovers don’t love them they will see how far they can test that love. As you can probably tell, love appears in many forms, always quite darkly and generally with a twist.
I will admit the first story ‘The Carolingian Period’ worried me that I might be a little disappointed, it didn’t do quite enough as a tale or effect me like I wanted it to, I also predicted the ending a little. That said it was still a great story, just having read Dan’s other works I wanted more. ‘The Violoncello’ changed all that. I admit I was thinking ‘if these are fairy stories why are we in modern Asia not the wooded lands’ but the magical element kicked in and, if there is such a thing, it became an epic short story. I loved it and reminded myself that stories should never be predictable and fairy tales can happen anywhere, ‘Landfill’ another marvellous example of that as it plays out in, well, a landfill. With ‘The Violoncello’ really I felt like I got a full novel in 44 pages, the story, the characters, the atmosphere, the emotion were all wonderfully drawn.
‘Coquettita was naked except for a string of pearls. He was naked too but with no one there to see it didn’t seem to matter. And they were in love. People in love like looking at each other with no clothes on. But as he saw in her contorted face the unvanquishable desire to pluck out his left eye he began, tentatively, to question the unconditionality of his love for her. For the first time in the six days since they had met, he felt the urge to hide his nakedness behind a tree or some ferns. He was frightened.’
Taken from ‘Glass Eyes’
It was those stories which had glimmers of the ones I loved as a child that I will admit I loved the most. ‘Glass Eyes’ was a wonderfully dark tale of a wizened witch disguising herself and wanting her beautiful lover to be as ugly as her. In fact beauty is a theme in my three favourite of the story’s as ‘Beautiful Consuela’ where a woman pushes the lines of love vs. beauty to extremes and my very favourite, and probably the darkest of the tales ‘The Painting’ shows the darkest effects beauty can have and what it can cause.
As I said at the start I like collections of stories that feel like fairy tales for adults. I like books that are darkly funny. I like Dan Rhodes. If you like anyone of these then you must get ‘Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love’. It’s a veritable treat.