on 22 December 2011
It's not surprising this book won the Scott Prize - it is so well written and a really great read. The stories cover an enormous range of human experience, human character and emotions and are funny, sad, haunting and very moving. I was utterly caught up in the stories and I'm really looking forward to hearing more from this exciting new writer before too long.
on 2 January 2012
Cassandra Parkin's Scott Prize-winning collection impressively brings the fairytale up to date for a 21st century, adult audience. Inspired by the famous tales of the Brothers Grimm, the book takes the form of six interviews with a variety of intriguing characters - the format mirroring the brothers themselves, who recorded folk tales after carrying out interviews with storytellers in a similar manner in the 1800s.
Parkin's stories are reimaginings of some of the more famous original tales - but I'm not going to say what these are as part of the fun is trying to figure them out and spotting the links between the old and new. Suffice to say that Parkin's versions are genuinely inspired, with certain characters changed from female to male, straight to gay or from child to step-mother. She also uproots them from their European settings and replants them very successfully in modern-day America - on the mean streets of Louisiana, in New Orleans' French Quarter or inside the glass towers of Wall Street.
With titles such as Interview #4, Interview #9, etc. (somewhat reminiscent of David Foster Wallace's interviews in `Brief Interviews with Hideous Men'), these are sexy, funny, new types of fairytale, with language which is inventive and fresh (`The afternoon sun was like a poke in the eye'). So if you're a grown-up with a desire to be told a new kind of fairytale, you won't go wrong with these - a real page-turner of a book.
on 22 October 2013
Lovely book of short stories based on Grimm's fairy tales. Really enjoyable reads and easy to dip in and out of (when time is scarce!). Thoroughly enjoyed guessing which tale each story was based on, which was far easier in some cases than others!
on 8 January 2012
OK, so this is my first book review. I'm not sure what's meant to to go into a book review, so I'll just say it like it is. I'll start by saying that this book is by far the best book I have read in a long long time (and I read a LOT of books!) This is a book of six short stories, not something I would normally buy, but I thought I'd give it a go. I am so glad I did. This book is a lovely bite-sized mix of tales for me to dip into whenever I have a spare hour or so. Every story is a brilliant tale in its own right, with beguiling characters and beautifully woven plotlines and settings. In a couple of the tales, it only took me a few pages to work out which of the Grimm brothers' fairytales it was loosely based around. In a couple of others, I read the story, and the fairytale was a bit of an afterthought, and I was compelled to re-read the story with fresh eyes and an active seek for the clues as to which tale it was based around. Ingenious! Then I enjoyed it even more for making the comparisons and connections to the original fairytale with adult eyes on a childhood story. The characters are not always the same as in the original fairytales, mothers become daughters, females become males and baddies become goodies. They are changed enough to make it a new story in its own right, but not enough that you can't spot it, if you really look - brilliant!
Every single one of these stories is believable in a modern-day 'real life' setting. I love how the writer has not fallen into the trap of 'every story has to have a happy/predictable ending' too - brave and, in my opinion, essential. Real life is not always happy or predictable, and these stories reflect that beautifully. I love the author's descriptive style too, "Her eyes were like rain-washed berries in her wrinkled brown face." I can REALLY imagine those eyes, and 'see' her as I read the words! Another one I really connected with, in relation to a woman selling her Louboutins to make money, "My shoes are butter-soft caramel suede with luscious four-inch heels, and I can feel every step of the short walk from the lot to the bar throbbing in the soles of my feet. They are beautiful shoes, but they're breaking my heart. Much better to end it now, before I get too involved." BRILLIANT! I don't imagine there is a woman or girl alive who has not, at some point, been madly and passionately in love with a pair of beautiful shoes which are too painful to wear, but SO worth it!
It would be remiss of me to fail to mention that I did have an initial worry before reading this book. On reading the synopsis on the back of the book telling me that the stories were set in 'contemporary America' I was worried. Worried that I wouldn't 'get' the characters, or that the sarcasm we love so much in the UK would be missed. I needn't have worried. Despite having never visited the USA, and only knowing one American, I really did connect with the characters, their accents, their ways and their emotions. I was also very pleasantly relieved to find a fair amount of humour and sarcasm thrown in too, "Okay. You win. We'll call it quits at five. Nice Shoes." "Thanks. Nice veneers." "Thanks. Don't fall off those heels on your way out."
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is the kind of book I would lend to friends, if I didn't want to let it out of my sight, that is. It looks beautiful on my shelf, and I don't want it to leave!
on 13 January 2013
This collection takes the form of six interviews numbered 4, 9, 15, 17, 27 and 42. Unless the reader has a great memory for numbers, the stories are likely to be remembered as 'The one about...' and this adds to the legendary, apocryphal quality of the collection.
Interview #4 is with Ella Orlando. In a reversal that fits with the modern family, Ella is a good stepmother whose devotion to stepdaughters Cindy and Beth leads to loneliness. A visit to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and an encounter with a bed-bound seamstress who owns several beautiful costumes changes Ella's life. Interview #9 is a darker, more menacing tale of vigilante justice and racism, while Interview #42 imagines a very different way of life for seven New York dwarfs. Each of the stories is told in the first person and Parkin creates authentic, interesting characters who describe their experiences in varied, entertaining language.
on 13 February 2012
This book is an exciting collection of six short stories for adults. Each is a modern retelling of a classic fairy tale which the author has transported to contemporary America, cleverly twisting and moulding each character, each plotline, disguising the original stories until the end of some tales, whilst others are immediately recognisable. Spotting which fairy story you are reading adds to the enjoyment of what is an outstanding collection of fiction in its own right, without the fairy tale connection.
The stories are beautifully told; the author's style is imaginative and descriptive, never stuffy or pretentious. Each story is written in the form of an interview with one of the characters. This briefly sets the scene, as you are launched into each story. Heroes and villains swap roles, genders and sexuality leaving you anticipating the traditional fairy tale ending which does not always turn out as expected.
My favourite story is Interview # 4. In my opinion it is one of the easiest to identify and opens the book with a glorious tale of selflessness, love, seduction and passion. It was wonderful to enjoy this tale from an adult point of view, whilst it retained all of the charm of the original children's tale.
These short stories are addictively readable, beautifully bite-sized fiction perfect for lunch breaks, train journeys, when the baby's asleep or anytime when you need an exciting escape from your own reality. A thoroughly good read that I would recommend to anyone. I just didn't want this book to end and eagerly await the author's next publication.
on 8 August 2012
This collection of fairy tales has been re-worked for the modern, adult reader. Each story is beautifully written, and rather than being constrained by the originals, Cassandra Parkin finds inspired ways to create ingenious narratives. The stories are presented as interviews, and the voice of each protagonist is powerfully convincing. My favourites are #9 and #17 but I won't mention from which tales they're evolved as part of the pleasure is discovering this for yourself. Clever, precise and inventive - highly recommended!
on 4 February 2012
Believe it or not, the Brothers Grimm would be proud of this collection of modernised tales from their extensive collection, and done beautifully by a very talented and courageous writer at that. Tackling a wide range of topics, subjects, and overall effects, Cassandra Parkin successfully paints with each short Interview a tale that captivates the reader and makes you want just a little more than you're getting. Visually spectacular, this book reads in stereophonics and shouts with drama and humour in all the right places, twisting the story so that, at first, you don't know which tale you are experiencing. Although every Interview is set in the United States, the written style is clearly British, and that gives it a fanciful width with which to play with, for this American reader. As mentioned in 'Interview #17', as those "in Washington State would say, 'how do you like them apples?'" -- I tell you, I like them a lot.
on 7 January 2012
Cassandra Parkin has managed to take stories that everyone knows and loves and completely turn them on their ear while still making them magical and engaging. The characters are every bit as fantastical as you could want them to be, while still managing to be believable. The first-person writing style combined with individual Voices for each telling almost makes you feel as though you were listening to a recording rather than reading a book. I also love how Parkin is unafraid to give unhappy endings or dubious motivations/morals to some of her characters and stories.
*Spoiler--I reaveal a few of the derivative stories, but I do not say which story is what--*
I would love to say which story was my favorite, but it would be very hard. Her retelling of Rumplestiltskin sticks out, as well as Rapunzel. And yet there's such a soft spot in my heart for any Snow White or Cinderella. I cannot recommend this compilation enough, and I do hope that this new author goes very far indeed.
on 22 January 2015
This book has you gripped from start to finish with it's brilliant writing and amazing ideas. You are transported into each of the stories effortlessly.