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Original Grimm fairy tales with commentary by Philip Pullman
on 19 November 2013
This wasn't exactly what I was expecting - I'd imagined a modern retelling of classic tales with a twist, as is quite popular at the moment (a spate of films, the US TV series 'Once Upon a Time', the successful musical 'Wicked' etc.). It isn't. Instead it's a collection of fairy tales based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm, presented by award winning author Philip Pullman. Without his famous name on the cover, this book would almost certainly not have achieved the same sales. But that's not to say it's bad - it isn't. Pullman always writes well and although he does very little to reinvent the tales, they are all readable. I'm not a fan of short stories, but I did enjoy working my way through these. It's actually rather fun, particularly reading the more authentic original versions of tales we think we know from Disney or other interpretations.
At the end of each story is a short commentary by Pullman. I'm not greatly interested in literary criticism or the history of folk tales, but I skimmed them and found some pretty interesting. It's all kept nice and short for the more casual reader. I did like reading his comments on the structure of the story and his criticisms at times of what he sees as flaws in the story structure. It made me think about these familiar tales in a different way. It would be a good book to introduce literary criticism to young people and get them thinking - certainly more fun than the tedious texts I ploughed through for GCSE after which I swore never to study English and ruin my pleasure of reading again.
Those with a particular interest in literary criticism, folk tales, or children's literature, will probably delight in this book. I found it entertaining and a bit different, but I didn't rush home to read it. I think that's a lot to do with personal taste, as I'm just not that excited by short stories. So it succeeds in doing what it sets out to do, it's just not something I could really get into.