The Djinn In The Nightingale's Eye: Five Fairy Stories Paperback – 7 Sep 1995
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"Those new to the world of Byatt might well begin here, with these tales-within-tales, which one can read as anything from contemporary allegories - such as the superb Dragon's Breath, evoking every idyll that ever fell foul of war or famine - to sheer celebrations of storytelling itself" (Vogue)
"The familiar elements of fairy story come to life under A.S. Byatt's touch...with lightness, precision, grace" (Observer)
"A cerebral extravaganza, bristling with ideas" (Spectator)
"The fairy story is obviously a form that fascinates A.S. Byatt, it suits her spare, cool prose and this collection enables her to create very different effects... a beautifully produced book" (Financial Times)
‘This book is a work of art’ Daily TelegraphSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The story that gives the name to the book is a pure joy to read. In it, you find a female narratologist, Gillian Perholt (wink to the famous French fairy-tale writer Perrault), who is going through a midlife crisis sparkled by the fact that her husband has left her for a much younger woman. However,from storyteller in a conference in Turkey she will become the heroine of an Arabian fairy tale of her own, complete with a djinn (genie) in a nightingale's eye (a Venetian glass bottle)that will grant her three wishes: first she wishes for her body to be like it was when she last really liked it; then she wishes the genie would love her; and finally... you'll have to read it to find out. Both ancient and modern, spiced with references from A Thousand and One Nights and flavoured with Byatt's own recurrent leit-motifs such as the (apparent) dichotomy between ice and fire or the symbolic use of colours, this tale captures the texture of the Arabian story while creating a whole new world. Brilliant.
If you like traditional fairy stories, you will like these ones, although they may surprise you. If you like metamorphoseing old into new without losing the grip of neither world, you will positively delight in these stories. So...just read them!
Nonetheless, the quality of the Djinn story is simply exceptional, a five-star performance that is perceptive, funny, hopeful, and sad. The protagonist is a middle-aged divorcee, whose entire life is displayed in a single magical instant that transforms her - but not her fate. The images are fabulously well drawn, unforgettable really, and will remain engraved in my memory for the rest of my life. Moreover, the subtlety of the encounter with the supernatural is full of delicious ambiguities and a peek into the fantastic that is one of the best I have ever encountered. I loved it, laughed, and felt wonder all at the same moment.
So I would warmly recommend this book, so long as the reader knows that the rest of it is somewhat disappointing.