I don't normally read short stories, they tend to feel very conscious of their limited space, and the characters are often empty names on pages to me....moreI don't normally read short stories, they tend to feel very conscious of their limited space, and the characters are often empty names on pages to me. Home Schooling is nothing like that. Each story offers up, in beautiful, lyrical prose, intense details about the characters, their pasts, their issues, their relationships, yet nothing is crammed, none of the stories are full of junk - there's not a single wasted or irrelevant sentence.
There are common elements running through these stories - death and, in the least melodramatic sense, rebirth; love and loss; the transient essence of the landscape and the people occupying its space.
My favourite story? Too difficult. I loved "Home Schooling", where the landscape, so vividly portrayed, reminded me a little of the wild moors in Wuthering Heights. Annabel sees the ghosts of previous occupants, the two sisters, Jane and Freddy, who used to live in their big old house-come-school, and a famous actress, and imagines them conversing with each other, having tea together, giving advice.
I enjoyed "Felt Skies" for the minor character of Dr. Bergius, a lonely man who looks like Freud, who finally escapes medicine for his dream of owning a radio station. He hovers by Rachel's desk, chats up her mum, and reminisces about his own Mother and now-deceased wife Eva. Each character in these stories, whether likeable or not, is fully realised, with insights coming from the central characters' knowledge as well as through the characters themselves, as they betray their human traits.
These stories captured an often chilly, misty unreality-within-reality -or perhaps it's a reality-within-unreality? They are not about large events but personal moments, moments of reflection, realisation and understanding. They work supremly well as short stories, and after reading each one take a moment to absorb it all. (less)
From "Beauty and the Beast" to "The Goose Girl", "Bluebeard" to "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", Madore has rewritten some classic fairy tales...moreFrom "Beauty and the Beast" to "The Goose Girl", "Bluebeard" to "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", Madore has rewritten some classic fairy tales to capture and express some of the most popular sexual fantasies women have.
Written simply and tastefully, there is an ulterior motive at work - one that comes across more strongly in some stories than others. As Madore says herself in her foreword,
"It is my belief that to empower women sexually (or in any other part of their life, for that matter), we need to stop trying to control or change them. We must accept them exactly as they are. When women feel good about themselves they feel better about sex. Sex is not a market that is cornered by a select few. All women have it within them to be sexual, although it lies dormant in many of us because of the damage done by our culture and media. It can be reawakened, but only through our total acceptance of who we are. We need to feel safe being sexual without the fear of being exploited, changed, categorized, punished, shamed or degraded."
A few of the stories tackle the issues of self-image and sexual shame head-on, especially "Mirror on the Wall" and "The Ugly Duckling", and the characters in the latter especially, express the problems very articulately.
But it's not just about women's issues. Or rather, it is, but it's all tied up in how we view our sexuality, and whether we can embrace it or not - which is the opposite of selling it or hiding it. Some of the stories are more erotic than others - "The Goose Girl" is very sweet and goes no further than a heated kiss, while "Beauty and the Beast" is very explicit. A couple of the stories were too long and quiet for me, and Madore's take on the fairy tales wasn't always the best one, I thought. But as she says, she chose the most popular sexual fantasies, in the hopes of reaching the most women (with the idea being that your sexual fantasy will probably be here), and she acknowledges that there might be some women left out. Well, without going into details, there were a couple that did speak to me, which is good enough.
This is a great book for those women among us who are shy about their sexuality, feel that it's a private thing (this book won't invade that privacy but rather complement it), or who have been made to feel ashamed of it. There's nothing here that will disgust you or turn you off - no pain, for example - and there's some powerful social commentary that's nicely interwoven that will speak to your intellect as much as to your emotions.
Contains: Beauty and the Beast Bluebeard Cat and Mouse Cinderella East of the Sun and West of the Moon Goldilocks and the Three Barons Mirror on the Wall Mrs. Fox Snow White in the Woods The Empress' New Clothes The Goose Girl The Sheep in Wolves' Clothing The Ugly Duckling(less)