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on 22 December 2013
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
5 people found this helpful
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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.
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on 15 July 2014
Very creepy and weird. Not sure I really got the point of it. I realise it's some kind of seminal horror work, but I didn't really enjoy it. I do read a lot, including horror/crime/thrillers and I suppose this is pretty original - I can appreciate that aspect of it. However it was just a bit depressing. The whole gender thing was odd and the sexual elements seemed a bit gratuitous.
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on 9 March 2014
Just brilliant...again!! A great story of a small town, the kids, the friends, the parents. As usual, greatly but simply described and rich enough so you get the feel of everyone's relationships. The boys start off young and we go with them as the grow into young men with all the trials and tribulations of puberty to maturity. Crushes and lusts, oh and a tooth fairy which chooses Sam but affects everyone in its own sweet but hellish way! Must read this excellent book.
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on 3 May 2011
Whilst Sam's encounters with the tooth fairy illustrates the problems of growing up, it is his relationship with the landscape of his childhood that I most empathised with. The reaction of the Redstone Moodies (otherwise known as the Heads Looked At boys) the gradual backfilling of 'their' lake - a reaction which they are barely able to articulate - perfectly illustrates their reaction to change in the years that follow in the incident in which the pike bites off two of Terry's toes on his left foot.
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on 26 December 2014
I love Graham Joyce's books and this is as good as any I've read. Always surprising, but written in a way that makes you think, oh yes, of course that WOULD happen that way. The characters are flawed, vulnerable, yet strong and the story is enigmatic and completely unpredictable. I found it unputdownable. Brilliant book.
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on 24 July 2013
Beautiful, evocative, powerful prose and the best coming of age novel I've ever read.
Whatever you think this book is, i can guarantee that it's not. The Tooth Fairy as a character to begin with is someone you have definitely never encountered anywhere in fiction, classic or modern.
Absolutely original and unique. Read it!
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on 10 May 2013
This for me was one of those books that i took a while to really grasp and i couldn't quite get. But as i read through i found myself getting more involved and finally couldn't put it down.
A very dark story that leaves you wondering how much of the Tooth Fairy was real and how much was just Sam's imagination, but in the end you feel that there is a bit of both.
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on 11 February 2014
I loved it.

In the vein of Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, it is a viscerally disturbing story of a young boy's reluctant fascination with his own personal "Tooth Fairy". Like most of Graham Joyce's work, it describes teenage lives, burgeoning sexuality, the unfairness of life as a young teen, and dark things that lurk at the edge of your imagination.

God forbid I ever saw my own tooth fairy.

A very clever book, and I LOVE clever books. Especially novels with a dark and nasty undercurrent.

Brilliant.
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on 23 March 2014
Very unique and unusual novel. Well written with a compelling plot that keeps the reader engrossed. Part coming of age story and part horror. Liked the afterword from the author in this edition too.
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