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The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  2,055 ratings  ·  139 reviews
The magnificent title story of this collection of fairy tales for adults describes the strange and uncanny relationship between its extravagantly intelligent heroine--a world renowned scholar of the art of story-telling--and the marvelous being that lives in a mysterious bottle, found in a dusty shop in an Istanbul bazaar. As A.S. Byatt renders this relationship with a pow...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published October 27th 1998 by Vintage International (first published 1994)
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I fell in love with the work of A. S. Byatt after reading her story "The Story of the Eldest Princess". I love fairy tales, but I also am the eldest child in my family and always felt a little slighted because in most fairy tales the older children fail. Even after I learned why that was, it still got tiresome. It was refreshing to read a story that approached fairy tales from the viewpoint of an eldest child who knows she is caught in the tale and what that means. It's a wonderful story for any...more
...Because sometimes, a completely modern fairytale, so-called, just won't do.

I still have sitting on my bedside table Possession, by Byatt. It is sitting there all forlorn, halfway-read with a growth which stagnated a couple of months back, when I found I just couldn't read another page at that moment. And still I haven't reached the next moment that will make me pick up the book and continue reading it.

Possession is one of those books that's like very dark, incredibly rich chocolate brownies....more
I think I have a new author to add to my quiver of favorites. This is the second book by Byatt I have read, and both have been spectacular!
Byatt’s style is poetic, lyric and beautiful. The words process like an ancient tapestry telling an epic story. Byatt’s sentences are often long and contain many phrases, but rarely do they seem clumsy or hard to follow. Instead the phrases march out a beat that leads to a clear concise thought. There is an echo of haunting in the writing as well, a note of...more
I just encountered Byatt for the first time, and despite her jaundiced view of the Harry Potter books, I have to say she's really a great read. This book contains four retellings or reimaginings of traditional fairy tales and a more realistic novella about a middle-aged professor who encounters the titular djinn on a trip to Turkey. The literary snob in me really appreciates the fact that she's a master wordsmith who also treats fairy tales seriously, but what really won me over was "The Story o...more
Destiny Dawn Long
I liked the self-awareness of the stories in this volume--how the characters were familiar with fairy tales, and that informed their actions and decisions in some way. In particular, I enjoyed "The Glass Coffin," "The Story of the Eldest Princess," and the title story for this reason. The emphasis on the act of storytelling gave me a lot to ponder. Also, I love that the title story uses the frame narrative structure--stories being told within the story--but without the neccesity of The Arabian N...more
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Of the five stories in The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye I enjoyed "The Story of the Eldest Princess" and "The Glass Coffin" the most. However, the other three were just okay.
Aug 20, 2014 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Beth by: GoodReads Recommendations
This is a collection of five beautiful short stories.

"The Glass Coffin," first published in Byatt's novel Possession, is a pretty straightforward fairytale about a tailor who has to search for the lock that matches a glass key. 2 stars.

"Gode's Story," also from Possession, is a disturbing love story. It's hard to say much about this without spoilers, but it's excellent. 4 stars.

"The Story of the Eldest Princess" takes place in a land where the sky has started to turn different colors, and the pr...more
There are five short stories in this book. The first four are just that, short, but the last one which gives the name of this book is quite lengthy.

The Glass Coffin is about a tailor who goes out into the world to find his luck. He meets a little grey man who gives him shelter for the night in exchange for helping with house chores. The tailor cooks, feeds the animals who also live in the house, and in return for his good work and kindness, gets to choose one gift out of the three the little gre...more
Kim Grant
This one got me emotionally, intellectually, and viscerally. Five enchanting fairytales for adults that successfully triggered the magical feelings of childhood while surviving the scrutiny of adult wisdom and modern sensibilities. Clever, very clever, as A.S. Byatt certainly is.

The jist of the djinn, the namesake story? A divorced, past-her-prime, upper middle-aged professor specializing in narratology finds herself in the possession of a genie trapped inside a beautiful “nightingale eye" glas...more
Althea Ann
I read this for the Mythic Fiction book group here on Goodreads, but never got around to going and posting about it over there...

A collection of 5 stories - 4 very short, and one novella-length (the title story). The first 4 stories were excellent - but 4.5 stars for the first half of the book, and 2 stars for the second half (actually, it's a little more than half) averages out to 3.

The Glass Coffin -
A humble tailor granted magical gifts, a sleeping princess, an enchanted prince, an evil magic...more
I like Byatt, I like how she writes and I've always felt awe for her capacity of writing fairytales. This book has some fairytale stories, some invented, some from other books such as Angels and Insects, so they were familiar to me. And there's also a longer tale about a professor specialised in tales and narratology, Gillian, who travels to Turkey for a conference and discovers a djinn in a nightingale's eye, who has to grant her three wishes.
The stories were fairytales, not the Disney on...more
A lovely collection of fairy tales. My favorite was "Gode's Story." The title story spent a lot of time establishing its frame tale structure, but when it finally got to the Djinn's stories, I was very interested. Also loved the following quotes from that novella:

"Oh the bliss, said Gillian to herself as she extended her sad body along the green rolls of swaying liquid and felt it vanish, felt her blood and nerves become pure energy, moved forward with a ripple like a swimming serpent. Little wa...more
Aug 20, 2011 Anne marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I've finished all stories but the titular one. I have to say that Byatt did a remarkable job at making the stories read like fairy tales, which isn't much of a compliment if you've ever read any fairy tales. They tend to be sparse on description and characterization.

"The Glass Coffin" was a comfortably predictable fairy tale, with a slightly different ending. The "happy ending" takes a different tone that the usual "hero marries the princess" endings in most fairy tales.

"Gode's Story" is one I d...more
The collection is a little disjointed - the earlier stories are short and a little confused, though the expressions quite beautiful at times. It wasn't until the very end of the last (most substantial) story - Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, that words and ideas came together. I think most of the earlier short stories are explained by A.S. Byatt's fascinations - "The Glass Coffin" with glass, suspension of time within glass; "The Story of the Eldest Princess"- of Fate and falling within the narr...more
Jun 30, 2009 Nwm added it
"The Glass Coffin"
Short and uninteresting, the first short story of the collection made me immediately doubt the person who recommended Byatt.

"The Miller's Daughter"
-A sad story that I had difficulty getting into initially. I don't feel as though I understood the underlying message of the story nor any of its allusions well enough to appreciate the story, but it was a decent read.

"The Story of the Eldest Princess"
An interesting take on the princess fairytale, and certainly more engaging than "...more
Abeer Hoque
I'm torn in writing this review. I adored first four of the five fairy stories in A. S. Byatt's "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye": limpid lambent language and the twisting satisfaction of fairy plotlines, so familiar, yet surprising. True almost all of the four had elements which I could critique, like loose ends and jumpy plots (like in Dragons' Breath), or sometimes characters apparently there just as foils (like the woodsman in "The Glass Coffin" or the little thing in Gode's Story), but t...more
lynne naranek
Another author introduced during my class exploring fairy tales. In this case, A. S. Byatt has modern original fairy tales (as opposed to Angela Carter's modern retelling/resetting of "classic" tales) for us to enjoy.

1. The Glass Coffin: Very similar to the idea of Sleeping Beauty. Nothing too outstanding.

2. Gode's Story: kinda weird story involving a dancer with wanderlust who asks a girl to wait for him, and this girl seems to pine and wither while waiting, and somehow there's a mysterious dan...more
It’s a collection of 5 “fairy stories,” although that being said, this is the author who got the award of Number One Partypooper when she snubbed adults who like Harry Potter because it’s so simplistic and the motifs so obvious and the magic so un-numinous. Fair enough, but please. Antonia, we know you’re rivals with your author-sister, and you don’t need to do any literary name-dropping to impress us. But that’s what she does in the titular tale, as it is about a fifty-something stout English n...more
I've always loved Byatt's fairy tales, which often appear in her novels (see Possession and The Children's Book), so I was excited to find a whole book of them. And these are not only about fairly tales, they are all about the reasons we tell stories and what it means to be inside one. (Of course, that's what all Byatt's books are about on some level, but that's a theme too large for a small internet review.) There are five stories in this book, but it's more like four stories and one novella. I...more
Mar 08, 2011 Christy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christy by: A Striped Armchair
The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye is a collection of five short stories, with the title story being the longest and perhaps qualifying as a novella. Here are my thoughts on all five stories:

“The Glass Coffin” and “The Eldest Princess” are stories that have fairytale trappings but are inhabited by protagonists who realize that they are in a fairytale scenario and this influences their actions. They know how things “worked in stories” and use this knowledge to their advantage. “The Eldest Princes...more
As always, Byatt's work is stunning. The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye is a small collection of five stories - more accurately, four short fairy tales and a fifth story that's more of a novella, and follows a scholar in her 50s.

I had already read The Glass Coffin and enjoyed it, but as far as the four short pieces, The Eldest Princess might be my favourite. Her descriptions, dialogue, and characters are beautiful as always. , but it's Byatt's language that is, as usual, the most fantastic. I'v...more
As always, A.S. Byatt is a fabulous wordsmith whose ability to transport readers to fantastical worlds with poetry-like prose is difficult to match. "The Glass Coffin", "Gode's Story", "The Story of the Eldest Princess", and "Dragon's Breath" are beautifully constructed original fairy tales. Unfortunately, the title story--which is really a novella--might only appeal to academic middle-aged intellectuals who are cognizant of the political practices in the university. If readers skip it, nothing...more
Kara Rae Garland
I wasn't sure I liked the title story until the end. At first it seemed far too slow and I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. As it progressed, I found myself somewhat liking the main character and trying to anticipate what might happen next. At the end, I realized the story had been like a wonderful meal that I'd had time to savor, beginning with something unfamiliar (but not unpleasant) to my palate and ending with a satisfying richness. Not too spicy, not too bland, just right.
I liked the first four fairy stories that are told in the old fairy tale style, but I did not like the last story, which is set in the modern day. It got boring, so I skipped the last one. I'm not particularly impressed with this author. It's like she tries too hard to sound scholarly and impressive, instead of just telling a good story. Her writing is also crass and grotesque in places. meh.
This book is a love letter to fairy tales, storytellers, and mythologists. It's the kind of writing I find so delicious and easy to sink into. I had to take one star away for the disappointing thread of body shame that runs throughout the main story. If only I could lift that damaged cord out, this book would be true perfection. I can't wait to read more of her work.
I read this as part of a reading challenge. The subtitle to this is “A Collection of Five Fairy Stories”. This is not something I would have chosen without the challenge since I prefer novels to short stories. However, the stories are not all the same length. The last one, from which the collection gets its title, is what I would consider to be more of a novella rather than a short story.

The first four stories were just o.k. for me. They were interesting, but I didn’t think they were particular...more
Well executed but lacking in magic, and the author seems a bit too fond of her own voice. I liked the idea of the stories better than the actuality.

The Glass Coffin — Plays a bit with traditional quest/adventure choices and a little less with mate selection in fairy tales.

Gode's Story — Lovelorn and dancing; a study in ill-timed waiting.

The Story of the Eldest Princess — I was on board with the unusual animal helpers until we got to the cockroach. Still the best of the bunch.

Dragon's Breath — Li...more
I love this book. Filled with strange, modern fairy tales (either modern because of their new telling of more traditional style tales, or because they are fairy tales in a modern setting). And true to Byatt, each is meticulously detailed, with exquisite language and fully drawn characters. My favorite is the title story, which is one of the most unusual and yet affecting love stories I know.
It's also interesting to note that reading these stories informs your reading of Byatt's opus, Possessio...more
The wonderful Ms Byatt again, with fabulous prose! Taken as a whole, these five "fairy stories" [publisher's phrase] offer insightful comments on story-telling in general and on that recurring boogeyman, free will. Taken separately, they are enticing stories, especially "The Glass Coffin," "Gode's Story," and "The Story of the Eldest Princess." "Coffin" and "Princess" are whiz-bang, semi-happy (semi? Byatt IS the author, remember) fairy tales. "Gode's Story," alas, alas, is all too true, even fo...more
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Endicott Mythic F...: * The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye - discussion 10 22 Mar 09, 2013 09:39AM  
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s E...more
More about A.S. Byatt...
Possession The Children's Book Angels and Insects The Virgin in the Garden Babel Tower

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“Once upon a time, when men and women hurtled through the air on metal wings, when they wore webbed feet and walked on the bottom of the sea, learning the speech of whales and the songs of the dolphins, when pearly-fleshed and jewelled apparitions of Texan herdsmen and houris shimmered in the dusk on Nicaraguan hillsides, when folk in Norway and Tasmania in dead of winter could dream of fresh strawberries, dates, guavas and passion fruits and find them spread next morning on their tables, there was a woman who was largely irrelevant, and therefore happy.” 10 likes
“All English stories get bogged down in whether or not the furniture is socially and aesthetically acceptable.” 3 likes
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