Top positive review
Review for Poison
on 14 June 2013
Drawing from the template of the traditional fairy-tale, Sarah Pinborough cuts a quirky and risqué take on Snow White, adding depth and scope to the original children's story to bring it to an adult readership. Nothing is quite what it seems in this version: the evil queen has a conscience and a past; Snow White isn't a sweet, hapless ingénue; and the prince, whilst charming indeed, has a most unpredictable part to play in the story. The only thing that is to be taken at face value is the cover and the page illustrations, which are a beautiful thing to behold. Whilst I am in a country that makes it more convenient for me to buy this via a Kindle, the book design is truly something quite special, and I would recommend anyone to buy it in hard-copy if they have the chance.
But just as the story goes, once you have delved beyond the glamour and perfection of the surface, all manners of grotesque and shocking things lurk beneath. S.P. takes quite a few risks here, eschewing a predictable retelling of the tale in a contemporary setting, and instead bravely taking us right back into the fairytale world, yet creating a very modern version within the walls of that castle and enchanted forest. She plays with the theme of female beauty and the prowess and privilege it bestows within the traditional tale, but tackles head-on the issues surrounding that theme, and the price that is paid for such a false value. The bitter is sweetened with humour and cleverness in her references to other fairy-tales that weave into the story effortlessly.
However, S.P.'s greatest triumph, as I see it, is how she has rescued the female characters from the realm of one-dimensional cut-outs and fleshed them into believable beings. Here we have women with a past and personalities and solid motivations - not to mention sexualities. Whilst I think the sex element isn't as prevalent a part of the story as many other reviewers seem to feel it is, the roles of the Queen and Snow White as "Vamp versus Virgin" are certainly challenged and changed here. With a nod to the folkloric origins of the story, S.P. cleverly uses elemental descriptions to portray the differences in how the two women relate to the world, and to their lovers. The queen's evil is no longer all rage and lust, any more than Snow's goodness is all sweetness and light. A more subtle and convincing story is told here, of one woman in touch with her heart and soul, and one who is not. The envy that binds this classic fairy-tale - as surely as the glamorous covers bind this brilliant version - stems from this difference, rather than the beauty both women equally possess.
A delicious poison, indeed. Take a bite.