TENDER MORSELS is a loosely based re-telling of the fairytale, "Snow White and Rose Red". But even if you are not aware of the original tale, you can still read this novel and enjoy it.
The story follows Liga. When we first meet her, she is a young girl in her teens. Due to her mother's earlier death, she is alone with her brutish father. He is a true monster. He abuses Liga in the worst possible way, resulting in Liga giving birth to a child who is also his. Not long after this, Liga is then brutally raped by a gang of town boys. Again, she bears a child.
Her two daughters, Branza and Urdda, are striking in their differences. They are like two opposite poles - one fair and quiet, the other dark and willful.
Through Liga's utter sorrow and torment which the world has thrown on her, she is granted the chance to live in her own version of heaven, where nothing can harm either her or her daughters. But, as time passes, the divide between the two worlds becomes less stable, threatening all that Liga has created for her small family.
That is a brief synopsis. What is really at the heart of this book is the idea that brutality and beauty can live side by side. In some ways, TENDER MORSELS seems to suggest that it has to - that the real world is never going to be a place where no dangers lie. In this respect, Lanagan has done a tremendous job in creating such an idea, such a world. Her prose reflects this notion; there are times when the violence of the book is diturbing and extremely uncomfortable reading, but there are also times when the prose reads almost like poetry. Although deprivation can be found within these pages, there is also magic and hope.
This is one of the best re-tellings of a fairytale that I have read in a long time. However, you really do need to persevere with it - the first 50 or so pages are pretty horrible, and the language of the towns people can be difficult to get used to, but if you stick with it, you should be rewarded.