I love fairy tales (surprise, I know). I don’t always love new interpretations, but sometimes they’re done so well, you just have to applaud.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror is a superb collection of reworked fairy tales. Overall, it’s a short read, which is nice. These stories preserve the narrative structure we associate with the drama, but also portrays them in some new and disturbing ways. This isn’t Cinderella BUT GRITTY! These are some really intelligent and disturbing stories. I love that there’s a lot of exploration of gender and agency, as well. This version of The Little Mermaid gives you a lot to think about in regard to the meshing of two different types of societies and how they view their people. I love this version of The Swan Brothers. I felt for the heroine in a way I never have before. This godmother in the Cinderella story is terrifying, and let me tell you, I will NEVER think of The Velveteen Rabbit in the same way again. If I ever sleep again, that is.
You’re going to be forced to look at characters in different ways, and examine what an ending for these stories really is (whether it’s happy or not, is up for debate). The fisherman’s tale at the end had my heart twisting, and the take on Beauty and the Beast amused me.
Because gender is so fluid in this book, it really made me stop and think about the role of women in folk tales, what agency they actually have, if they’re actually choosing to give it up or not. Now, I could provide plenty different stories where the female leads DO have agency, but with these specific stories, the original characters…well, yes and no. So often they’re the ones who have things happen to them, and that’s actually explored here. Or they’re given much different motivations that still make perfect sense. Honestly, this version of The Little Mermaid may now be my favorite. And it really makes you wonder if we can get away from using gender to portray character types in stories, because some of these are just so refreshing.
The author definitely understands folk and fairy tales. That’s immediately clear and what made this an easy book to get lost in for me. This isn’t some satire or edgy reboot. Sure, these things are dark, but so are the originals. These just make you think about the dark more, which makes things all the better (and creepier).