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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A few months ago, a Channel 4 series ("Gods and Monsters") presented by Tony Robinson (of Time Team and Baldrick fame) examined the history of superstition. It told the story of Bridget Clary. In 1895 she was murdered by her husband, who believed she was a changeling, that is, not his wife at all - the real Bridget having been stolen by the fairies. Graham Joyce's novel uses this theme, postulating a similar "abduction" in 21st century England. There is a strong and intriguing opening, when Tara Martin knocks on her parents' door just after Christmas. Tara disappeared 20 years ago at the age of 16, and it was assumed that she was murdered in the mysterious Outwoods. When she reappears, insisting that she has only been absent for six months and doesn't seem to have aged a day, there are challenges for everyone - her now elderly parents, her brother Peter who has "grown up" since, and her ex boyfriend, upon whom suspicion fell. The book deals with the consequences of the situation.

Joyce weaves together Tara's own story of her experience (white horse, seductive young man, strange, fey land which she cannot get out of) with a very matter-of-fact account of everyday life for the left behind (work, pubs, children, casual police brutality). He grounds the comings and goings to the mysterious otherworld very credibly in a specific English locality, the Charnwood forest, where three counties meet (so, a border place - good for crossing into the Otherworld) which overlies a geological fault (those interested in "Earth mysteries" sometimes speculate that spooky experiences may be linked to the influences of gases and vapours seeping up from below ground, as with the oracle at Delphi. Equally, of course, those "stolen" away were thought to be somehow taken underground). This is done very well. He also creates well drawn and believable characters, and the plotting is excellent - I sat up well past midnight to finish this, I simply couldn't stop till I found out how it would finish (without giving too much away, there's a delicious sense that it might NOT have finished).

The chapter headings recount various scraps of lore concerning "fairies" (though we're advised not to call them that - they don't like it) including the tale of the unfortunate Bridget. I smiled to see Joyce introduce thoughts from William Heaney among these. Heaney, also known as Graham Joyce, was the "author" of Memoirs of a Master Forger and the reference - passing though it is - is appropriate in this book, with its themes of truth and falsehood, and how we judge them (Bridget dies because of the accusation that she had "visited" the fairies, though she says she hadn't: Tara suffers because she claims she has, though nobody will believe her).

In all, this is the best book I've read so far this year.
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on 2 January 2013
**Minor Spoilers Implied**

Some Kind of Fairy Tale borrows liberally from British folk tales relating to the disappearance of young women, apparently taken by the fairies. In this instance the abductee, Tara, returns twenty years later, although she claims (and her appearance would suggest) that for her only six months have passed. Thereafter, the novel flits between Tara's fantastical tale, attempts to rationalise her experiences through psychiatry and the stories of those left behind.

Joyce digs deep into British mythology for his story, a fact underlined by the literary quotes and the reports of real-life encounters with the mystic that precede each chapter. The fairies of this tale owe less to Disney and more to A Midsummer Night's Dream. They're earthy, lusty free spirits with radical knowledge of physics but an unusual approach to ethics. This kind of folklore is fascinating and Joyce manages to capture some of this in a largely entertaining story with a genuinely poetic bent.

The tension between the fantastic and the mundane provide plenty of opportunity for Joyce to challenge the way in which our society works. His themes question the moral judgements that we all make in relationships, child rearing and the imposition of authority. Consequently, this is a charismatic book that is -on the whole- pretty engaging. I do, however, have gripes.

Around the core mystery, Joyce builds a series of thematically related plots. Some are very pertinent to the core narrative whilst others seem far more tangential. In particular, the strained relationship between Tara's adolescent nephew and his elderly neighbour falls into the second category. Some of the plot strands of the latter type don't resolve into the core plot or themes until very late in the novel. Given this, there are sections of the novel that drag being relatively unexciting unto themselves and apparently inconsequential overall. In fact, pace in general is a problem; the book is slow to start and then concludes very quickly.

The same divergence exists amongst the characters. Some are charming and easy to sympathise with (the ex-boyfriend whose life was put on hold by Tara's disappearance) whilst others are rather dull, feeling like cogs in the plot rather than properly realised characters. The main character, Tara, however, seems wilfully irritating. Admittedly, she is meant to be a sixteen year old, so should be expected to be headstrong and temperamental but this does not necessarily make her likeable. Perhaps we are meant to observe how her time away has changed her but I found her sometimes smug and, on at least one occasion, wantonly vengeful. For me, this left me unmoved by some of the major plot developments when asked to sympathise with her.

Finally, the text never gives a definitive answer as to whether the fae are real or an aspect of Tara's psychosis but it is pretty clear from early on where the author's preference lies. The lack of credence given to one side of the argument actually served to diminish some of the dramatic tension, making the core mystery somewhat redundant.

This is an interesting read that that is clearly well researched, constructed of delicate language and often entertaining. Too often, however, I was distracted by structural decisions made by the author that pulled me out of the text.
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on 6 November 2012
Sometimes you discover a book which is like a bubble that isolates you from the rest of the world. "Some kind of fairy tale" was such a book for me. I did not know the author but when I read the 'résumé' on Amazon, I just had to order it.
It was unputdownable, from the very first page. I even found myself snatching a few minutes from work to finish a chapter... I loved the author's way of mixing reality with magic. Made me ready to believe it all without questions! The story flows, easily, never boring. A tale of enchantment... I certainly was under the spell and I am without a doubt going to order his other books. Just to keep the spell on...
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2012
Once upon a time in north Leicestershire Tara, aged 16, goes missing, it is if she has just dropped off the planet. After a long and fruitless search her parents, Peter, her older brother and Richie the besotted boyfriend have to accept she is gone forever and try to get on with their lives. Once best friends Peter and Richie become estranged, poor Richie is suspected of killing her and all he has left is his music. Twenty years later on Christmas Day Tara returns with a very strange tale to tell. All except Richie have come to terms with her loss and now have to come to terms with her return and they all react to her wild story in different ways.

`Some Kind of Fairy Tale' is a contemporary take on the classic `abducted by fairies' tale and Joyce makes no attempt to hide the fact that he was inspired and influenced by many such stories from the past. His fairies are not the sentimentalized version, they are not tiny and they don't have wings and wear pretty little dresses. I wouldn't want to meet Joyce's fairies; it is not that they are evil but dark and sinister with, by human standards, a lax view on morality and they don't like being referred to as 'fairies'.

Charnwood Forest provides the perfect setting for this story; as someone who once spent several years living within walking distance of the Outwoods I can vouch for the enchanted nature of this ancient place and the bluebells really are an impressive sight when you catch them at the right time. I haven't really thought about Charnwood Forest for a few years now but this novel took me right back rekindling memories of happy times spent in this beautiful part of England.

It is a beautifully written book but it does have - to borrow from the film industry - strong language, sexual scenes and themes of an adult nature. Graham Joyce is hardly a household name even though this is his 8th book with several of them unfortunately currently out of print. He has won both the British and World Fantasy Award and perhaps it is the `fantasy' tag that puts many readers off reading him as for many people fantasy equates to the dungeons and dragons type stories. Think magical realism, think Haruki Murakami and you will get a better idea of Joyce's style of fantasy.

`Some Kind of Fairytale' is moving, thought provoking with believable characters and wonderful descriptions and if I could give it more than 5 stars I would. Do they live happily ever after? You will have to read it to find out.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 January 2014
Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a gentler, sadder story (for adults) than The Tooth Fairy. Joyce writes about the world of myth and magic through very adult eyes indeed, and his fairy world (we are repeatedly told that the denizens of that world get very angry indeed at being referred to as fairies) are sometimes akin to angelic hordes, and sometimes seem to have more than a touch of the demonic about them.

The plot of this is simple. Tara, a young girl, not quite 16, living near Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire, disappears. Fears of course are of abduction, kidnapping and murder. No body is ever found, but her family is broken and devastated. The lives of her parents are blighted, her brother Peter loses not only his beloved sister, but also his best friend Richie, Tara's boyfriend, suspected by all and sundry (including the police) of having done away with Tara following an argument.

The book opens 20 years later, with a knock on the door - Tara has returned, looking no older than 18 at the most, and she has a tale to tell which no one believes.

Woven into Tara's stories are erudite chapter beginnings involving quotations by some of the great and good who have made serious studies of the importance of myth and fairy stories from a wide ranging geography of cultures - Marina Warner, Bruno Bettelheim, Joseph Campbell, as well as literary writers such as Angela Carter, G.K Chesterton, and who used these stories to uncover the deep subconscious levels they allude to .

One such quoted chapter heading source is the following rather lovely comment from W.H. Auden

`A fairy tale...............on the other hand, demands of the reader total surrender; so long as he is in its world, there must for him be no other'

The other woven story is that of a real trial which took place in Ireland, not that long ago, in 1895, where a young woman Bridget Cleary was tortured and burned by her husband, father, other relatives and neighbours, because they believed she had been stolen away by fairies and the woman now appearing to be Bridget was in fact a fairy changeling. Excerpts from the court transcripts are quoted. This is very far from twee.

Joyce, a serious writer with however a mordant and gleeful touch mixes together a story about ageing, memory, lost dreams, yearnings for a world of less ordinary meaning, the real wonder of the world we live in if we only wake from our dream, with these erudite writings and literary traditions from the fairy world.

As for that mordant gleefulness. Much humour is laced in around psychobabble - Tara submits to psychotherapy with a maverick hip practitioner, who nevertheless naval gazes wonderfully poking in the cauldron of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - a self-publicised Bible of mental health diagnosis, where anything remotely human can be rendered as pathology.

Further fun is had with Tara's 13 year old nephew, very much in the middle of sulking hormonal adolescence, with more than a touch of the Adrian Moles about him. I never thought I would find a dead cat funny............................

I enjoyed this enormously and will certainly be making my way through more of Joyce's canon of work.

My only slight reservation was of the importance of Richie in Tara's story - it looked as if the relationship was on the out, through Tara's wishes, when she disappeared, so the ain true love aspect (on her side) didn't quite feel as potent as suggested
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on 30 May 2016
Tara was fifteen when she vanished after an argument with her boyfriend. There wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him but her family never spoke to him again.

Now, 20 years later, Tara has just knocked on her parents door. She’s dirty and dishevelled, her father doesn’t recognise her at first but her mother faints at the sight of her. They phone her brother Peter and together they hear her story of twenty years spent travelling the world, this epic journey was apparently taken on a whim.

But her stories don’t quite add up, and she doesn’t look more than a day older than when she left. Eventually she tells Peter and her one time boyfriend Ritchie a different story – but one so strange her family fear she’s lost her mind.

I listened to this rather than read it, it was in fact the first audiobook I ever listened to (about 5 years ago) and listening to it again gave me a new appreciation of it. The reader is so important with an audiobook and John Lee was excellent! It’s mainly told from the male perspectives (Peter’s, Ritchie’s and excerpts from her psychiatrist’s book on her) and his voice was utterly believable throughout.

The story itself was far better and more nuanced than I remembered – and I remembered it fondly! The worlds the author builds and the characters that inhabit them are completely believable, whther they are set in the ‘real world’ or not! It’s a magical tale and deals with whether those of us that travel can ever truly come home as well as questioning the reality we take for granted.

NB This review appeared first on The BookEaters Blog - [...]
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on 23 May 2013
Have read a lot of fairytale/paranormal romance books at the grand old age of 38 but have to say a lot of them are cringe worthily simple in their writing style - i was reading better written books as a child! My favourites in the last few years have been melissa marr and holly black and i was despairing of ever finding a good read again after reading a lot of generally lacklustre books of this type of genre recently until i found this one! I don't want to give too much away but what appealed to me about the story is that it is set in the present day but has a traditional fairy tale love theme. It centres around a teenager who has been missing for 20 years - presumed dead by her family but turns up only to tell them this amazing tale of having been seduced away to live with the fairies with her believing that only 6 months has passed. The story deals with some quite adult themes and is well written and flows beautifully - skipping between her narrative of her experience (as she tells it to a psychiatrist) and how she and her family attempt to rebuild their relationship and how she copes in a world that is 20 years on from where she left it. You will not be disappointed and i will definitely be looking for more books by this author.
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on 9 September 2012
This book earned a double first from me. A few weeks back it became the first book that annoyed me so much I chucked it across the room. It then became the first book that, having once given up, I gave a second chance.

Glad I did. 4 out of 5 stars. (It lost a star for putting a mark in the living room wall).

Seriously, why did I chuck it? A couple of annoying factual errors. Some grating clichés and (the straw that broke the camels back) a scene (in the "real" world) that I found so ludicrous the book went sailing across the room before I knew it. But I was compelled to return. Thereupon, the story became quite unputdownable.

A refreshing take on folklore. I am so close to giving back that fifth star ...
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on 27 June 2014
I have read other books by Graham Joyce in the last, and find his work to be of a consistently high standard. Well-drawn, believable and interesting characters paired with compelling storylines and a sprinkle of magic and mystery.
This offering does not disappoint.

The quality of the writing was as good as I would have expected from Joyce, and I especially liked the use of the character of the psychiatrist/psychologist (I've never really understood the difference!) as his reports gave a good contrast to the rest of the story, and his involvement in the plot as a whole was unexpected.

If you like your 'grown up' literature with a pinch of fairy dust, you'll enjoy this.
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on 10 November 2013
I have not finished reading this yet but I am enjoying it so much that I have downloaded another of his books to read next. Joyce writes in a very engaging way and every chapter concentrates on one character and how they interact with the main character Tara. If you like the thought of fairies (in a grown up way!) then this book is for you. I don't want to spoil it by describing the characters or plot, but it is very easy to get into and I am finding it hard to put down
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