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Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

by
3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  4,723 Ratings  ·  443 Reviews
A collection of thirteen interconnected stories that give old fairy tales a new twist.
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published May 27th 1997 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1997)
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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
...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
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
...more
Jackikellum
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
...more
BrokenTune
Mar 01, 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
...more
Wealhtheow
Jul 16, 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
Nikki
Sep 18, 2011 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
...more
Holly
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 Janet
Aug 11, 2015 Liz Janet 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
...more
Juliet
Jun 24, 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
...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.
Cat
Jan 11, 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
Miriam
May 05, 2009 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
Amanda
I really enjoyed this! It was an easy, quick read, but the writing didn't suffer for that. It was my kind of dark fairy tales (not that dark, but not happy, fluffy unicorns), with feminist subversion that was so great to see! I would highly recommend this for those who are fans of fairy tales and want a fresh palate cleanser of a book.
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 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
LynnDee (The Library Lush)
I like the concept of this book, and the stories were good. However, because the stories are short there isn't much character development, & because there are different characters it was difficult to keep track of whose story I was on. Overall though, I liked it.
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.
dathomira
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.
Leah
Nov 22, 2016 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"On the whole I am inclined to think that a witch should not kiss. Perhaps it is the not being kissed that makes her a witch; perhaps the source of her power is the breath of loneliness around her. She who takes a kiss can also die of it, can wake into something unimaginable, having turned herself into some new species."

Not at all what I expected. Instead of a collection of short stories retelling separate fairy tales, Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins links each story by having the prot
...more
Liisa
Oct 03, 2016 Liisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, 2016
Kissing the Witch includes 13 short fairy tale retellings that all have a feminist twist in them. Ive never been very interested in fairy tales and all I know comes from Disney films or childrens books and as its been a long time since Ive watched and read them, I dont remember much. I recognized only a few of Donoghues retellings and maybe I would have gotten more out of the collection had I been able to compare more of the stories to their original form. But these tales are certainly enjoyable ...more
Alix
Sep 13, 2016 Alix rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid 3.75—I guess I was expecting more stories about women loving women.
Emily
Jul 13, 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
Alexandra
Aug 17, 2016 Alexandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because of Jen Campbell essentially, specifically because of her fairy tale collection and recommendations video. I'm obsessed with fairytales and magical realism and when I heard there was a collection of fairytales rewritten with a feminist twist, I got very excited.

The book was a quick read (all in all took about 3 hours) and does in fact read like a fairytale from start to finish. I liked the feeling of independence in The Voice and found the metaphor for losing your vo
...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
Bri
Jul 23, 2012 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.
Cris
Jul 27, 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.
Joseph
Oct 11, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
Pauline
Apr 30, 2016 Pauline rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Roisin
Oct 07, 2015 Roisin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! Definitely one of my favourites!
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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.” 34 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.” 28 likes
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