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Kissing the Witch

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,269 Ratings  ·  383 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.
Paperback, 210 pages
Published October 3rd 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stef Rozitis
Out of all the (so far 72) books I have read this year, this one was DEFINITELY my favourite, and yet I know it won't be for everyone. It's a group of short stories, familiar fairy tales rewritten to be very feminist, somewhat queer (in the broad sense) and to link together so that each story is the story of one of the characters in it who interacts with another character and at the end of each story the next character is asked to tell their story.

The magic in the story is sort of made natural a
Feb 17, 2013 Zen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
"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
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
Jun 10, 2008 Jackikellum rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Apr 11, 2016 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Review to follow.
Mar 19, 2015 BrokenTune rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"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."

I had heard of Emma Donoghue mostly because people kept talking about her novel Room. This, however, was the first encounter I have had with her writing.

Kissing the Witch is a clever little book that takes well known fairy tales and tells them from the perspective of different women involved in the stories. Each story is then linked thro
Jul 17, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it liked it  ·  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
Jan 16, 2013 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fairytales
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
I picked this up because Kirsty Logan of The Gracekeepers said that it was very influential for her. These are fairytale retellings with a feminist twist. They’re also stacked like Russian dolls, so at the end of one retelling you’ll have the ‘villain’ tell their backstory, and the witch of one tale becomes the heroine of the next. Your favourite fairy tale will probably be in here. There’s a Little Mermaid retelling which was probably my favourite.
Liz BooksandStuff
May 03, 2016 Liz BooksandStuff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be clever.

“Change for your own sake, if you must, not for what you imagine another will ask of you.”

These are considered fairytale re-tellings with a feminist twist, but the best part is that they are all connected as a woman asks the other who they were "before", and together they make a novel that leaves you begging for more.

They were girls, princesses, innocent or not so, all before they became witches, stepmothers, crones. These sto
Sep 25, 2012 Juliet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  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
J.G. 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.
May 06, 2014 Cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 quietlyyet stronglyrevolutionar ...more
Allison Floyd
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
im always skeptical of things comp'd to the bloody chamber, but i had a need for the good prose, and boy did this deliver. not all the stories hit me right in the center, but the ones that did were amazing. very happy to have read this and will probs buy a hardcopy.
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.
Jul 25, 2008 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 11, 2016 Pauline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I AM SO ALIVE. the library raised me on european fairytales and it is so delightful hearing ladycentric lesbian everything
Feb 06, 2015 Bri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. Donogue has stark language; she doesn't waste words but uses them beautifully. Some of the stories work better than others or are more interesting, but she weaves them together in a way that is quite lovely and most of them have a surprising darkness (that's not depressing) and sensuality. There's some real honest humanity here. Of course, I loved the queer spins on several stories. A quick, engrossing read.
Nov 15, 2015 Cris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cris by: Jen Campbell
Some of these tales were familiar right off the bat, but some were shrouded in fairy dust right until the end. I love the way Donoghue told these tales and gave them new life! Now I want to explore some of the original tales (Hansel & Gretel, The Goose Girl, and The Little Mermaid, etc.) from their original tellings and beyond.
Mar 30, 2016 Joseph rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
Nov 23, 2015 Roisin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! Definitely one of my favourites!
Feb 08, 2016 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to shove this book on everyone's bookshelf. This fairytale retelling collection succeeds in making the women featured not victims, but makers of their own fate. There's a clear sense of agency and mastery within these women paupers, princesses, and witches, and most importantly, many of these women are part of, and bring visibility to, the LGBTQA+ community. These stories aren't about women finding their princes, but of women finding their princesses, or themselves, or each other. I could ...more
Here is a list of the tales retold in this collection:
(view spoiler)
Mar 27, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this so much. Each of the fairytales was original in its retelling, and the writing was poetic and unique. I found the style to be very true to the source material, in that it did feel very fairytale-esque (which I guess I interpret as a narrative voice that, despite being first-person in this case, feels distanced from the events of the story). Because the narrators were all telling their own origin tales, they were sharing their pasts, so I never felt fully immersed in the plot. This ...more
I enjoyed these stories a lot. Most were short, and it could be argued that they were simple ... but there's a difference between straightforward and simple. I loved how each story led into the next, connected by associations between the female characters. I loved how some stories were mostly reversals - the witch is actually the victim, the heroine actually the villain - but most of the stories weren't. They weren't merely the inverse of the well-known fairy tales; they were retellings. Most of ...more
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
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500 Great Books B...: Kissing the Witch - Emma Donoghue - Stef 1 6 Sep 04, 2015 12:17PM  
Fairy Tales Eclectic: Kissing the Witch 2 8 Aug 12, 2014 07:48PM  
Thoughts on this book. 11 32 Jul 30, 2014 11:38AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: #47 Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue 1 6 May 07, 2014 06:51PM  
Endicott Mythic F...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Kissing the Witch - who's reading? 19 25 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
More about Emma Donoghue...

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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.” 30 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.” 23 likes
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