The nursery rhyme is timeless, but the way this old Scandinavian tale is woven into this novella is nothing short of remarkable. The work is full of symbolism and shot through with the cutting irony of the lot of a woman in a time when 'feminism' itself was born, although that fact is completely invisible. The nursery rhyme is a wonderful vehicle for story. Often these strange and rather random narratives are a simple mechanism for a kind of child centred social education. They are also often very old mysteries, shrouded in forgotten meanings and twists; in fact the very essence of 'the eye of god' whether written or perceived. And that is what is most intriguing about this novella. It is written in a way that is broad and open. Like a huge canvass where the reader can join with the writer in a wondrous connection of imaginings that are unforced and allowed to waft around as we are transported across this strange scene of time, place and social intrigue. Valerie Bird has the gift of 'unsaying' which is a device in which what is not written becomes more important than what is. Perhaps Herta Muller is the best exponent of this art, and at times I felt I was back in the milieu of 'The Passport'. My only criticism, and it is just one, is that I would have preferred the luxury of a weighty right hand when reading this, instead of the reality that it would all be over by tea time.