on 17 May 2010
You know the Tooth fairy right, cute little pixie type with wacky hat. Loveable creature much admired by young children as it sneaks about taking discarded teeth and swapping them for vast sums of money. Turns out they are not quite that nice after all.
Sam accidentally sees the Tooth Fairy one night and things take a downward turn from then on. You see, this tooth fairy, is an evil manipulative spirit and the fact that he/she is seen binds it to Sam, neither is particularly happy with this situation.
This book is not really about fairies though, good or bad. It's about growing up; it's about dealing with all life's problems through a difficult adolescence. It is, in fact, a coming of age story.
Set in the late sixties the book also plays out in tandem with the sexual and cultural revolutions taking place in that period. Sam and his friends are faced with increasingly complicated and often tragic family histories. Trying to make sense of this whilst being confronted with an often malevolent spirit makes Sam's life particularly difficult and for the reader, particularly interesting.
Graham Joyce's use of a normally happy childhood symbol in an altogether more malevolent form is genius. It allows him to exaggerate and emphasise the difficulties Sam experiences growing up. That difficult period of puberty as new feelings and experiences begin to come to prominence is given added mystique.
Needless to say sex plays a prominent role throughout the book as Sam's urges awaken against the background of a general rise in promiscuity in the late 60's. The offsetting of Sam's innocence with the Tooth Fairies experience provides a rich vein of confusion in Sam's mind which Joyce exploits to the full.
So the tooth fairy becomes a metaphor for life's difficulties. The characters are engaging, the plot compelling and original and the balance between humour and pathos is beautifully realised. Anyone expecting a fantasy or fairy story should steer clear but anyone who enjoys a gritty psychological drama with plenty of horrific overtones will really enjoy this book.
Grotesque, beautiful, repulsive, compelling, hilarious, tragic, magical and very very erotic! Rarely have I read a book that provokes so many conflicting emotions. The angst of growing pains and awakening sexuality is very skilfully crafted and will, no doubt, strike a chord of recognition with many readers. The enigmatic character of the Tooth Fairy will haunt you long after the final page.
A minor masterpiece.
on 16 September 2003
I'm reading the Tooth Fairy for the second time now, having looked it out for a friend. Once I'd found it I couldn't put it down (both times!) and my friend is going to have to wait!!! It's an absolutely FABULOUS book. The action starts right on the first page and the whole book is fast moving, exciting, imaginative and very gripping. I'd encourage anyone to read it - it's certainly one of the best books I've ever read and parts of it have stayed with me for years. Also, like one of the other reviewers, I too think The Tooth Fairy would make a great film - the imagery is so vivid! It's definitely a book that can be read again without loosing any of its excitement. I'm certainly going to buy more of Graham Joyce's books.
Graham Joyce's Tooth Fairy is a coming of age book in the same way as Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane is, or John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things. The genre is somewhere between horror and fantasy, but Joyce is using the power of fairy tale, myth and the shadow world to explore, with humour and with savagery the world of imagination, darkness and intensity which I suspect most of us were well aware of in childhood, and particularly in adolescence. However we are inclined to ring-fence, put away and talk ourselves out of remembering that world as we don sober suits, responsibilities and become owned by the world, rather than by our febrile imaginations.
Set in the Midlands, in the early 60s, the book follows the fortunes of a small group of friends Sam, Terry and Clive, later joined by the classier, horse-riding Alice, and by Linda, slightly older, much more sophisticated, striding into the uplands of sexuality way before the 3 boys she originally bosses and nannies.
Sam, aged 5, loses a milk tooth, and meets a Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy is like nothing from Peter Pan. He/she/it is a sexual shapeshifter; feral, filthy, violent, alluring, murderous, vengeful, wounded, lost, tender, anarchic and comically, lethally, viciously destructive. The Tooth Fairy represents the dark, hidden, I-have-no-idea-what-is-going-to-happen-next-randomness of life. Only Sam (a perfectly normal and ordinary lower middle class boy, going through school, going through adolescence, meeting bullies, kind teachers and alcoholic psychiatrists) sees the Fairy, though occasionally others sense its presence.
So..........think a comic, inventive writer who can precisely get inside the heads of a group of young boys, but that writer also does not shy away from perfectly dark and horrific places in reality (suicide, violence, murder, drug abuse, sexual abuse). And that writer can come up with a cracking good narrative, and have the sharp, witty observation about a particular period in time and place similarly, for example, as Jonathan Coe does.
Joyce is a mash-up fantasy, horror, comedic social commentator of a writer, who creates real, utterly believable characters, and just twists their world, whilst maintaining the truthfulness of personality and psychology and the daytime reality we are familiar with.
This is a book for adults, not for children, even though the central characters are children, and young adults
on 5 January 2013
Lots of other people have already left feedback covering how I feel about this book so I'll keep this quite short. I read this years ago and have re-read it a couple of time since. Now that in itself is saying something as I rarely read books more than once. This is a dark book full of the horrors of the night mixed with the confusion of puberty. Is the tooth fairy real or just part of the characters psyche? Who knows, certainly not the boy himself that's for sure. I lent my copy to a friend who made the mistake of reading it in bed just before trying to sleep in an otherwise empty house. She still hasn't forgiven me and had to keep the light on all night. I would say that this is my favourite of Graham Joyce's books but don't let that out you off reading the others.
on 16 June 2012
At the tender age of 5, Sam accidentally sees the Tooth Fairy when he wakes in the middle of the night. From that moment on, Sam sees the Tooth Fairy's malign hand in everything that goes wrong for the people closest to him while he grows up, like a shadow hanging over him. Sam and his two best friends Terry and Clive are growing up in the sixties, with a world that's changing around them, but within the safety of their suburban family units. But when the three join in with a scouting game that goes horribly wrong, they live in fear of the moment it will catch up with them throughout their adolescence. And Sam's visits from the Tooth Fairy ensure he is never at risk of forgetting...
Apparently, this novel is officially categorised as `horror', but I read it as a classic and original coming of age story which effortlessly evokes the everyday fears and adventures of boyhood and friendship in the sixties. The physical manifestation of the somewhat sinister Tooth Fairy in Sam's life, though, steps the narrative up a level. Is Sam's psychiatrist right, and the Tooth Fairy is merely a projection of Sam's ordinary childhood guilt and anxieties (in which case, is Sam himself responsible for the minor tragedies that occur around him?) or does the Tooth Fairy really exist, but visible only to Sam? Joyce's skill is evident in his ability to write such an eloquently ambiguous metaphor, so that the story is successful whichever way one chooses to read it.
Joyce has a wonderful ability to create appealing, fallible, believable characters, and situate them in a truly recognisable world. The Tooth Fairy is an accessible and engaging read, with an interesting psychological perspective of childhood. The only reason I don't rate it higher is because coming-of-age stories have a natural form to which this one melds beautifully - and thus it is ultimately, quite simply, a well-written example of the genre. Most definitely worth a read but even despite the unique Tooth Fairy metaphor, not quite broken free of its mould.
on 27 April 2012
Graham Joyce surely is one of the most underrated authors...is this possibly because he is so hard to market? Is he horror? Is he fantasy? Or possibly `social surrealism'...?
What ever he is his stories are strange, magical and original and he fast becoming one of my favourite authors.
He likes to instill in the reader a feeling of lingering uneasiness .... `You come away from the book feeling your perception of the world has been just been knock slightly askew away from what you previously thought to be normal' Graham refuses to come down on one side or the other of the ideas he presents in his novel, it is all about ambiguity and uncertainty
Sam, Clive and Terry are ordinary (ish) boys growing up in the 1960s until one day when Clive punches Sam in the mouth and knocks out a tooth. ...Sam puts the tooth under his pillow at bedtime...as you do. He wakes up during the night and first lays eyes on the Tooth Fairy "oddly dressed and smelling of horse's sweat and chamomile". Tinkerbelle this Fairy is not ...it is an angry, bitter and viscous looking creature from nightmare. Thus begins a strange, disturbing sometimes touching relationship with the Tooth Fairy as it dogs Sam's footsteps through childhood and into adolescence.
The Tooth Fairy, whose appearance, mood and sex change constantly makes for a rather unpredictable, mercurial companion - sometimes protecting Sam other times tormenting him, bullying and threatening him and his family. The Fairy is a character in its own right with its own moods and emotions, jealously, lust, spite, anger and touching moments of tenderness. The author skilfully coveys the wild, unpredictable primeval nature of the Tooth Fairy.
Without the supernatural element, the adolescent adventures of Sam and his friends would have made a brilliantly funny `rites of passage' novel...all petty vandalism (though making pipe bombs in your Dad's shed is hardly petty), growing pains and awakening sexuality. The novel is brilliantly structured, well characterised and entirely compelling and the elegant writing at times is almost prose with a whimsical and nostalgic tone.
This novel shows that horror fiction doesn't not have to be high octane `gore splatter' serial killing zombies but that it can be beautiful, compulsive, hilarious, tragic, magical and very, very funny ...oh very, very rude!
When he is a young boy, Sam Southall loses a tooth and leaves it out for the tooth fairy to collect. Unfortunately, the tooth fairy is unhappy when Sam wakes up during the collection process, and the result is a long, fractious and unpleasant relationship that lasts the remainder of Sam's childhood.
As the years pass and Sam moves through adolescence with his best friends, Terry and Clive, their lives seem to be stricken with more than their fair share of tragedy and misfortune. Is this the doing of the malevolent tooth fairy, or is she merely a figment of Sam's imagination? A psychiatrist tries to get to the truth, with mixed results.
The Tooth Fairy was originally published in 1996 and won the British Fantasy Award the year after. It has gone on to become arguably Joyce's best-known novel. It is an effective, emotionally resonant story about growing up, childhood friendships and awkward teenage romances, with the question of whether the tooth fairy is real or merely a figment of Sam's mind providing an interesting and ambiguous mystery throughout the story.
It's told in an earthy manner, with some violence and sexual references, but not in a gratuitous manner. Iain M. Banks is a big fan of the novel and some echoes of The Wasp Factory can be detected in the book's uncompromising attitude, although The Tooth Fairy is somewhat more optimistic. The characters and situations are well-drawn, the family relationships work well and the fantastical elements are explored interestingly, although those looking for neat answers best be warned that there aren't any. The reader is often encouraged to come up with their own explanations and interpretations of story developments. Joyce nails the awkwardness of growing up very well in the book, and the atmosphere of life in the 1960s comes through nicely.
The Tooth Fairy (****½) is a dark, intriguing story about adolescence, family and friendships, well-told and enjoyable. The book is available now in the UK and USA.
on 19 September 2013
Yet another book from my find of the year, author Graham Joyce. Can I say it falls way outside my usual books of choice but his writing is such a delight that I am drawn to his work and will return again soon.
There is a mystery in this account of growing up in a rural village in the West Midlands. It is a coming of age story about Sam and his closest friends and family. Joyce isn't content to let the story unfold as he introduces the wider scope by speculating that the Tooth Fairy is alive in our world as seen through a young boys eyes.
There is drama, sex, violence, acne, drugs, the usual stuff of growing up and the influence of the Tooth Fairy seems to bring more insight into this process often at some cost. The sprite's true nature is hard to gauge. Perhaps a guide into adulthood, a malevolent creature out to create havoc, a jealous lover/friend or an evil presence whispering into people's ear to bring death and ill fortune. Sam worries when the Tooth Fairy seems to bleed out into all his relationships and influence others. The skill is you never know if the creature is real or just in Sam's troubled imagination even when as in a later book, Joyce plays with the Psychiatrist's own sense of reality.
Rich in humour but with a dark and sinister edge this is a beautifully crafted novel bursting with excellent prose and creative language.
... okay, I'm writing a review for a book that I read so long ago I don't actually recall the plot intricacies. What I do know, however, is that after reading the The Tooth Fairy, I became a fan of Graham Joyce. I haven't read all his books, but I've read enough to know that he invariably delivers, both on plot and writing style. The Tooth Fairy stayed with me for a long time after - it was dark, brooding and chilled me in a way that more obvious books fail to do. I'm now reading Some Kind of Fairy Tale also by Graham Joyce, which reminds me in a small way of The Tooth Fairy (although the tone of voice and writing is by no means a rip-off of The Tooth Fairy - in fact, it's the originality that Joyce brings to each novel which makes him such a compelling writer). So, with Joyce at the front of my mind again, I just wanted to share what a great read this book is. In fact, I'd say it's a must-read for anyone who likes a well told tale that has a hint of darkness about it. Superb.