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Fairytale, fable and human history collide,
This review is from: Gingerbread (Hardcover)
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A boy is brought to the house of his grandfather, a bleak tenament flat in a Belarussian town. His mother is dying of cancer and has brought her son to live with her father. Slowly, reluctantly, Grandfather, or Papa, begins to tell the boy and mother the stories he told to her as a child. Of Baba Yaga, the deep forests, and of the mighty Winter King and the King in the West who fought a terrible war over Belarus when it was Poland.
The mother's dying wish is for her ashes to be scattered with those of her mother in the great ancient forest beyond the town. Grandfather, or Papa, is deeply reluctant but on a day when the roads are deep in ice he relents and takes the boy and his mother's remains out to a near ruined house. It becomes clear that Papa is not afraid of the forest, he is afraid of not wanting to leave it. Daily Papa remains in the house only venturing to collect the boy from school, then one day he does not come and the boy goes in search of him.
It is the beginning of a stunning magical cartwheeling story where boy and grandfather leave the urban for the wild and enter a world of stories, of partisan fighters who retreated to safety among the trees, of women and children massacred and the trees that drank too deeply of their blood and have become wicked, of survival, and love.
Dinsdale weaves the two parts of his story - narrative and folklore, together in such a skillful way that both drive each other. Crises come, injury, new people in the forest, decisions to be made over loyalty, faithfulness and friendship, but always the ancient forest full of wildlife is a world beyond narrative where the past and present are bound together.