Tag Archives: Sara Maitland

Why I Still Turn to Fairytales…

Some might say it is a little bit queer (rolls eyes at self) that a thirty three year old man would be desperate to see Cinderella as his 33rd birthday treat, yet this was my story just a few weeks ago. Since I can remember when I have loved a good fairytale. This I blame on my family frankly.

Firstly my highly over imaginative grandfather who made me believe that the tower at the top of our hill (actually part of The Heights of Abraham) was where Rapunzel lived (who I named my pet duck after) and who also wrote me magical tales with me in them when I was three upwards. Secondly my pair of wicked ugly aunties (only joking Caz and Alice, honest, gulp) who told me tales of witches who lived on the hill, which I think they made up. Thirdly my mother who would read and reread (and reread and reread and reread) the wonderful Ladybird Well Loved Tales to me as a child. Fourthly my Gran who also read me those and would watch the Slipper and the Rose (one of the best versions of the Cinderella story, end of) at least four or five times, with a break in between for The Wizard of Oz or the odd Doris Day movie, when I would stay in the school holidays. I know, this explains so much right there doesn’t it?

My old family home, surrounded by forest – Sleeping Beauty much?

So I guess fairy tales were a safe haven when I was growing up and indeed have been my turn to books whenever I am feeling a little off kilter, ill, out of sorts or have the dreaded readers block. There are the odd exceptions but Into the Woods was a film not a book and probably shouldn’t be mentioned ever again. Oddly enough once I realised how much darker they were than sanitised Ladybird or Disney incarnations I loved them all the more, though still haven’t read all the ‘fairy tales uncut’ as it were. That was why there was really no other first tattoo option for me; I am planning a ‘woodland fairytale scene’ on my other arm as we speak. Seeing Cinderella, which was extremely good indeed thank you for asking, and having the new routine of watching an episode of Once Upon a Time with my breakfast and coffee and sometimes my lunch – the urge for me to read the originals and the new homage’s and the like has come back really strong.

I thought instead of me just asking you for advice on which ones I should look out for, though you all know I am going to ask that later let’s not pretend, I decided I would share with you some fairy tales and fairy tale themed books I have loved and some I have been buying and hoarding and planning to read at some point.

Just a selection from my shelves...

Just a selection from my shelves…

First up are some books that I would really, really recommend and indeed have reviewed. There are of course the originals but you all know about all of them. There have been some wonderful authors who have taken on the fairytales and given them their spin. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is one fine example, as is Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales (which do what they say on the tin) and I would highly recommend Sarah Pinborough’s trilogy of Poison, Charm (which I have read but yet to review) and Beauty (which I have yet to read) which give the tales of three princesses a much darker and saucier feel, and cleverly interweaves them all.

If you fancy some new fairytales then you can’t go wrong with the fantastically gothic graphic novel collection of both Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods and Isabel Greenberg’s An Encyclopedia of Early Earth one which will give you the horrors, the other which looks at myths, fairytales and legends and their creation. Then there is the wonderful collection by Viktor and Rolf, which safe to celebrates the campiness of the fairytale, disco hedgehog anyone? Oh and how could I forget the sublime, sublime, sublime Diving Belles by Lucy Wood which is one of my favourite short story collections every and will have you seeing magic, mermaids and witches everywhere when you leave the house.

There is one standout though that both reinvents and invents. With Bitter Greens I think Kate Forsyth, who is actually a Doctor of Fairytales yet who we shall just call Queen of the Fairy Tales for now, has done something incredible that any fairy tale or story lover of any type should read. In it we meet three women all isolated from society for various different reasons, a storyteller locked in a nunnery, a woman locked into getting revenge and a young girl locked in a tower. These women’s tales come together to create a wonderful novel about storytelling, history, and fairytales and of course my favourite tale of all the story tales… Rapunzel. Just read it. I need to read The Wild Girl which I believe looks at the Brothers Grimm themselves and nicely links in to some books I haven’t read yet but have bought.

So what of the books to read?  I didn’t realise this until recently, and now it seems so obvious, but Kate Hamer’s debut about a child abducted The Girl in the Red Coat is one I am itching to read, as is Kirsty Logan’s collection of modern fairytales The Rental Heart. Then there is the series that I have seen lots and lots and lots of people going crazy over, the dystopic Lunar Chronicles which sees Cinderella as a cyborg, Little Red Riding Hood turn detective/street crime fighter and Rapunzel a computer hacker. I. CANNOT. WAIT!

Oh and then there are two nonfiction books I should mention. Once Upon a Time which is Marina Warner’s short history of the fairytale (apparently she is an expert so I might end up wanting her entire backlist) and I am also desperate to read, Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland which comes with the subtitle the tangled roots of our forests and fairytales which I have had on the shelves for far too long and needs to be read.

Phew I think that is enough! As you can see this list is not exhaustive and I am sure there are many, many recommendations you would love to pass onto me. Hint, hint. Has Margaret Atwood not done some fairytales, it will be a crime if not. If you would like to hear Kate Forsyth and I talking fairytales, you can do so here, oh and if anyone would like to be a secret benefactor and send me to Australia to do a doctorate of fairytales and follow in Kate’s footsteps do let me know. Right over to you; which of the above have you read and what would you recommend?

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Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Reads of 2012

Do you find that you get to the end of the year, start to see everyone’s books of the year, start compiling your own and then suddenly think ‘why didn’t I read that? Or that? Or that?’ I know taht i do. Actually, I do a list like this mentally every year, I thought I had posted one on the blog last year but I can’t find it currently, never mind. I decided that I would compile one for you this weekend, before I post my books of the year at the end of next week, and who knows they may be some of the first reads of 2013!

  

  • Bringing Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel (started this one, then put it down as got a deluge of Green Carnation Prize submissions to read)
  • The Yips – Nicola Barker (see excuse above)
  • The Casual Vacancy – J. K. Rowling (was really excited by this, then heard too much about it, then Gran said it wasn’t very good. She has now said it got a lot better in the end, so I will give it a whirl after Dickens I think, if the whim tales me)

  

  • This is Life – Dan Rhodes (very cross with myself about this one as Dan Rhodes is one of my favourite authors and so I should have read this straight away, it is also one of the Fiction Uncovered titles and I love that promotion)
  • HHhH – Laurent Binet (I wasn’t too fussed about this debut until I saw Marieke Hardy singing its praises on the First Tuesday Book Club, have wanted to read it since)
  • Gossip From The Forest – Sara Maitland (a book about fairy tales and forests and the relationship between the two, very me, very cross)

 

  • John Saturnall’s Feast – Lawrence Norfolk (a book set to appeal to foodies like ‘Perfume’ appealed to anyone who likes scents, and a dark book too, started this twice and each time more Green Carnation submissions arrived, too big a book to read in bits and bobs)
  • Building Stories – Chris Ware (a graphic novel in a box that pushes the boundaries of fiction be it graphic or not, erm yes please)
  • When Nights Were Cold – Susanna Jones (another of the Fiction Uncovered titles which appealed to me because I have a rather random obsession with the Arctic and Antarctic and this is set in the Victorian period – I imagined this would have been one of my reads of the year)

  

  • Every Contact Leaves A Trace – Elanor Dymott (this sounded like an unusual literary thriller/murder mystery and I should have read more of those this year)
  • A Death in the Family – Karl Ove Knausgaard (admittedly I had no idea this book existed until I started seeing other bloggers ends of the year lists, the bloggers who loved it really loved it and they are all blogs I trust, this may be my first read of 2013 – I like to start with a gooden)
  • Any of the Simon Serrailler series – Susan Hill (I intended to read two this year to start catching up again, I haven’t read one, bad, bad me)

So which have been your shoulda, woulda, coulda reads of the year? What titles, new or old, can you not believe or feel gutted you haven’t read yet?

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Books By The Bedside #6

I am just sorting out which books to take with me back to Matlock while I go and look after Granny Savidge for a while and thought it might be quite timely to share with you the books on my reading periphery at the moment. I have noticed that reviews are piling up at rather an alarming rate at the moment, especially now I can talk about any of the Green Carnation Prize books submitted apart from the shortlisted ones. So while you might not see my thoughts on the books below for a while here is what I am getting my reading tackle around currently…

The first was a book I ran out and bought (okay, I didn’t run I just went online and got it for a bargain) as on the Halloween special of The Readers I waffled on about a short story, about a man who moves into a house that smells of almonds, that really freaked me out but I had no idea what it was. Big thanks to Goodreads member Kristin who knew it was Roald Dahl’s ‘The Landlady’ and I have read it and been freaked out all over again and am really enjoying ‘Kiss Kiss’ as a very odd collection. More on it soon…

Second and third up are books that might seem a little morbid with all that is going on and yet I think will be proof that books can help you in difficult times. ‘Mortality’ by Christopher Hitchens is a book that AJ has raved about and then Karyn recommended I try with everything going on, as it is Hitchens’ memoirs/essays that he wrote for Vanity Fair after he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Here he shares everything he goes through from that point and I have heard that whilst I might not agree with him and his views his writing is incredible. Another book that has recently arrived is ‘The End of Your Life Book Club’ by Will Schwalbe, this is an account of the conversations he had with his mother as she was having treatment and then dying of cancer about books as something else to discuss and yet at the same time use to address what was going on. Oddly Gran and I mainly talk about books at the moment, sometimes books really can mirror your life.

The book I really want to pick up after these two is ‘Gossip from the Forest’ by Sara Maitland. I hadn’t heard of the book until I caught up with a recent episode of the BBC Book Cafe where she took one of the presenters around a wood talking about the history of forests and fairytales and where the two meet and how forests inspired the latter. This is exactly what this book is all about and as a big, big fan of both forests and fairytales this sounds like one of those rare non-fiction books I might actually ‘get’.

The final book on the bedside is one that I mentioned in my library loot vlog post. If there is one thriller that I have noticed seems to have the word of mouth buzz, rather than publisher hype, then it is ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn which sounds like an ideal escapist thrilling read which I could do with right now. So I think I will be packing all of these for my trip to Grans where we have already agreed we will have some reading time together as she isn’t getting enough. Like I would say no to that!

So which of these titles have you read and what are you reading right now? What have you been reading and what might you read next?

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