Kissing the Witch
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Kissing the Witch

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  2,931 ratings  ·  261 reviews
A collection of 13 short stories in which the author has taken classic fairy tales, combining them with stories of power and surviving in a bewildered world, all narrated by women. From the author of STIRFRY and HOOD.
Unknown Binding
Published October 3rd 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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Jackikellum
Jun 10, 2008 Jackikellum rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mature Young Adult Readers
Recommended to Jackikellum by: YA Course Rutgers Grad School
At first glance, Kissing the Witch appears to be a simple anthology of fairy-like tales. Upon deeper reading, it becomes clear that the separate stories are fragments—or different points of viewing one continuous thread. The way that the fragments are woven together is brilliant.


Early, the reader is aware that there are continual suggestions of tales that he/she has heard since childhood. Hints are dropped here and there; and they glimmer beneath the surface of the text. The images are repeatedl...more
Rachel
Frustratingly simplistic. These are easy reversals of fairy tales, and stand or fall based entirely on the reader's agreement with the reversal, rather than as stories on their own. I like the idea of lesbian friendly fairy tales - I, for one, am someone who always wanted to kiss the witch, as the title proclaims - but there must be a way of telling those stories without leeching all the power of the original. Threat is powerful - the danger and ugliness of fairy tales are why they have stayed w...more
Zen
"Climbing to the witch's cave one day, / I called out, / Who were you / before you came to live here?/ And she said, / Will I tell you my own story? / It is a tale of a kiss."

Do you ever find a book and just know it's going to be everything you love in the world? Only you can't read it right away because it's not the right time, or you're not in the right mood, and you want everything to be perfect. What if you're wrong about it and it doesn't live up to your expectations? How will you find anot...more
Nikki
I've wanted to read this for ages, so when I had insomnia last night seemed like a good time. This book is a series of interlinked, usually traditional, fairytales, featuring the voices of women trapped within them -- sometimes with lesbian relationships, sometimes just (just!) the complicated relationships between women.

For me, it felt a little flimsy, maybe not quite as magical as I'd hoped, but overall it was enjoyable. Mostly, I wished it was longer, that there was more of it. I think I enj...more
Juliet
Kissing the Witch is a quirky collection with the sub-title 'Old Tales in New Skins' - it contains thirteen re-imagined fairy tales by Irish writer Emma Donoghue. Donoghue's publishing credits include a non-fiction book on lesbian culture, and a lesbian sensibility is evident in this collection. Gay readers should especially enjoy this twist on some of the traditional 'boy meets girl' fairy tales.

As a long-time student and lover of traditional stories, I found Kissing the Witch beautifully craft...more
Wealhtheow
Jul 17, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the Orphan's Tales, Patricia McKillip
The book begins with "The Tale of the Shoe," told by Cinderella. Her fairy godmother gives her everything she needs to dance with a prince--but in the end, she realizes she'd rather have the fairy godmother. At Cinderella's urging, the godmother tells her own story, which prompts the next story, and so on. Each short tale is inspired by a fairy tale; each is told by a woman (although some have become birds and horses and witches since then). Some are more revolutionary than ohers: Hansel and Gre...more
Allison
There was nothing wrong with this book. I blame my recent Francesca Lia Block immersion for my lack of staying power with this one. From the three tales I read, this struck me as Francesca Lia Block with a lesbian feminist bent, i.e. beautifully written, but a lot more style than substance. Which is all very well, and I realize that these are fairytale retellings, and fairytales deal more in types than characters, et cetera. Again, had I not glutted myself on FLB (and Angela Carter) this summer,...more
Keely
Donoghue combines self-righteous messages with blatantly didactic interior monologues which can only appeal to those already believing everything she says. She spurs no thought which was not already there, and in writing a book which never aspired to art, has done what your average writer does: increase the general volume of words in print, and nothing more. A string of random monkey-typed characters would have aided mankind as well.
Sarah Verminski
I absolutely love this book! I read it at a time where I was reading all these re-told fairy tales, but none of them were told quite like this. After I read it I couldn't get enough of Emma Donoghue, and she's become one of my favorite authors.
Cat
At first, I felt like this book was appealing but super derivative. Inspired by some of the same feminist motives as Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Donoghue puts a new twist on familiar fairy tales. While her lyrical narration and playful recharacterization were immediately appealing, I found the sameness of the revisions somewhat pat. Yes, it always turns out that the evil witch is just a reviled woman; patriarchal culture too often condemns women for being alone, unattra...more
Juushika
A collection of 13 short stories, Kissing the Witch takes fairy tales (many of them easily recognizable) and revises them: poetic and magical, they take a fresh look at their stories and protagonists, instilling feminine independence, wisdom, and romance missing in the original tales. The narrative that ties the stories together is stretched thin, but everything else about the book is wonderful: it's a strong, uniform collection which is beautiful, liberating, and quietly—yet strongly—revolution...more
Miriam
Feb 13, 2010 Miriam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists
Donoghue's feminist retellings of fairy tales is not as original as it would have been when first published, but the beauty and power of her prose is undiminished. The short first-person accounts flow fluidly (sometimes more fluidly than logically) from one to the next, connected by overlapping characters, a technique that elides the traditional good/evil dichotomy of fairy tales. However, readers should resist the tidal pull of the transitions and take a couple of breaks rather than reading str...more
Emily
This is just the sort of book that I SHOULD like. It's the sort of book I'd imagine that a lot of people would read and say, even if they didn't like it, "This would be right up Emily's alley!" But lordy be, it just didn't do much for me. The "new skins" for the old tales tended to take the bite out of the old tales, while trying to be bite-ier somehow. I don't know. I can't really figure it. The language is evocative. The structure could be seen as inventive. There are some nice images. Just al...more
Sheryl
Donoghue's twist on Fairytales. Minimalist and very focused on style. Each narration is different, but they bare a similarity in that they tend to be more obtuse than obvious in their telling of their stories. Sometimes the originals were easier to identify than others and sometimes the varied to the point of almost unrecognizable - but that wasn't a big deal. I enjoyed the different takes on the classic fairytales but more so I enjoyed the story for what it said about the women, the relationshi...more
Andriana Xenophontos
It is very hard for me to peg my overall opinion of the novel because I often found myself admiring certain techniques or tales yet I also found myself a tad disappointed in other areas. I picked up this book initially because I was intrigued by the theme of "Old tales in new skin," and I often found myself attempting to "crack the code" and determine which tale belonged to the original fairy tale. Some of the tales such as The Tale of Hair, The Tale of the Spinster and The Tale of the Cottage w...more
Eva Shang
So I picked up this YA retelling of fairytales at the book swap, and it's been definitely interesting.
First off, I liked the feminist undertones--these stories seem to challenge the traditional passive roles of women and perpetual quest to find a husband by presenting women as allied in a sisterhood against a world dominated by men. I liked the language- Donoghue manages to keep her prose emotional, mystical, and gripping, full of ornate figurative language as befitting a traditional fairytale....more
Eneya Vorodecky
I really liked this book. I am a sucker for fairy tales and I love the good retelling of classic fairy tales. The more complex and interesting point of views, the better.

There are 13 retelling stories in it, based on 13 classic stories such as Sleeping Beauty, The Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Snow White, The Little Mermaid... you get the picture. The structure is pretty simplistic and perfect because of it. Each story begins with the question from the previous story main protagonist "how did...more
Lauren
I first discovered this collection of short stories in my high school library when I was 14, and they've lingered with me ever since. The concept of weaving fairy tales together isn't exactly unique...the "Fables" comic series, Sondheim's "Into the Woods," and now ABC's "Once Upon a Time" have all taken a stab at that idea, just to name a few. But I think this book puts an interesting spin on it by focusing solely on female characters and deviating from the "get married" ending so many of these...more
Britt Doughty-godchaux
I rarely re-read books. This book I have read at least four or five times. Donoghue's writing is mesmerizing and magical. And because her politics are so good, this can be a true suspension of belief for even the most conscious reader. She weaves the nuances of her characters and plots together so that they surprise and fascinate, creating truly new skins for tales that may have been told or read to us in the past as limiting or frightening, but now can be uplifting, rich experiences. But these...more
Michelle
my library had this book marked as YA, and apart from the spare, straightforward language, i'd disagree. Donoghue has woven together most all of the classic heroine-driven fairy tales (cinderella, snow white, sleeping beauty...) into a series of nested/linked retellings. some of the "new skins" these tales are wearing are looking at the same events from a different perspective, while others take off on a completely different and very feminist slant. the women in these stories are witches and inn...more
Carlos Mock
Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue

What an interesting twist for a fairy tale book. Ms. Donoghue takes traditional fairy tales and spins them over to create new and interesting tales. In her Cinderella version, Cinderella is not interested in marrying her prince; in Beauty and the Beast the beast turns out to be a woman; in Rapunzel, she's blind and does not wish to flee with the prince; in Hansel and Gretel, Gretel is impaired and does not wish to leave the witches' house; in her Snow White vers...more
Onyx
These elegantly told tales seem so familiar, yet the characters are richer, darker, and more developed than any children’s story you may have read. The villain of one story is the heroine of the next, voicing a cascading pattern of interwoven tales of love, pride, and woe that all start with the phrase, "Shall I tell you my own story? It is the tale of a rose.”

Or of hair. Or a shoe. Or a kiss. “Old Tales in New Skins” indeed…these stories bring a level of sophistication to what we generally wri...more
M.L.
I quite like fairy tales and I especially like inversions or new tellings. Yet here, the inversions felt a little formulaic and the language was over-pefumed with yearning. With the stories being so short, I hadn't enough time to take in the emotions for my own. And with their being so similarly structured, I had trouble taking each of them as part of a broader arc. Still, there were some lovely moments, and I'd recommend the book highly as something to read aloud to a loved one, sick in bed.
Nomad
This was one of my first retold fairytale books. And it was from a queer positive perspective. I felt right at home. Sometimes the heroine ended up with a man, sometimes she ended up with a woman. Sometimes it ended even more unconventionally. These are true to the books tagline "Old tales in new skins."

This is the sort of book you read on a blustery day with a glass of wine. Or maybe that's the way I feel about since I gobbled it up in one greedy gulp in the exact fashion I mentioned.

Zhouyi
Writing is gorgeous.
Nicole
Oct 02, 2008 Nicole rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who believe all men are bad are the only ones who will enjoy this.
Recommended to Nicole by: I found this on the shelves at the library where I work.
I enjoy reading fairy tales told new ways, however, I did not like this collection. I felt like I was reading a book full of bitter feminist diatribes against men. Every story beat you over the head with the idea that men were either evil or ready to enslave women. The agenda left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to give this book no stars, but Donoghue can craft a phrase.
Carolina
People that love The Bloody Chamber, this is for you!

Want to squeeze those good ol' fairy tales into juicy new perspectives? Emma Donoghue (well-known for the still-to-be-read-by-me Room) does a terrific job at this. She breaks with heteronormativity and patriarchy by providing alternative readings of stories (by changing the narrator) or even meddling now and then in the original plot. As far as retellings go, these are amongst the best I've come across.

Highlights:

The Tale of the Shoe
The twist...more
Alice
I really, really liked this. I think I was expecting it to be kind of okay, but not only are all her various narrators confident and well-written, but they've made me rethink basically every major fairytale. Favorites: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White. Which, y'know, weren't called by those names, but that's what they were.

Emma Donoghue is awesome.
Liz Blocker
This was described to me by a client as 'gay fairy tales', which is only half-true, and that's if I'm being generous. These are fairy tales, but they're about as gay as the originals (i.e. a few hints, but not much else). What they are, in fact, are Donoghue's retelling of the classics. They are funny, desperate, and terribly sad; they are imaginatively wrought and gorgeously written; and each one is brief and lovely and engaging, so that you can read one tale in a few minutes, or delve into the...more
B. Hallward
This collection of retold fairytales was occasionally clever -- particularly the structuring device that connects the stories -- and superficially entertaining, but as much as I liked the concept, I found the execution lacking, with a tendency to heavy-handedness and awkward, affected prose.
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Fairy Tales Eclectic: Kissing the Witch 2 6 Aug 12, 2014 07:48PM  
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Endicott Mythic F...: Kissing the Witch - who's reading? 19 23 Aug 18, 2013 09:51AM  
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Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of...more
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“The sound of the pages turning was the sound of magic. The dry liquid feel of paper under fingertips was what magic felt like.” 16 likes
“And as the years flowed by, some villagers told travelers of a beast and a beauty who lived in the castle and could be seen walking on the battlements, and others told of two beauties, and others, of two beasts.” 15 likes
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