Very interesting and readable biography of Hans Christian Andersen - long though! Interestingly, the biographer includes a kind of literary vignette aVery interesting and readable biography of Hans Christian Andersen - long though! Interestingly, the biographer includes a kind of literary vignette at the start of each chapter - a kind of imagined short story involving Hans Christian Andersen. I wasn't quite sure what to make of those, and I was honing in on specific aspects of HCA's biography, so I mostly skipped them. HCA is a fascinating figure - very confident and persistent from a young age in his vision of his own destiny as an author, and throughout his life a constant hard worker and prolific producer in his craft. He was famous throughout Europe, though more respected abroad than at home in his native Denmark; an extremely social being for a writer, but also socially strange and awkward, and it seems in later years ever more self-centered....more
A historical romance with paranormal elements, set in nineteenth-century England - a young woman whose formerly prosperous family has fallen on hard tA historical romance with paranormal elements, set in nineteenth-century England - a young woman whose formerly prosperous family has fallen on hard times is married off to a mysterious wealthy man of scandalous reputation - a man who wears a mask and is rumored to be a devil in disguise. Oh, and incidentally, the girl also happens to be able to start fires with the power of her mind ...
Elements of the Beauty and the Beast/Cupid and Psyche tropes here, which is always fun to see worked into fiction in new and different ways - here combined with the Firestarter/Carrie trope. Some steamy scenes that occasionally provoke lapses in believability ((view spoiler)[like when our masked hero takes a severe wound in a fight, then pleasures his lady extendedly in an alley, and then is discovered by our heroine to be nearly bleeding to death and in need of being stitched up by hand ... (hide spoiler)]). But on balance, not bad, fast-paced and reasonably fun for some escapist reading.["br"]>["br"]>...more
I was curious to read the original versions of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale (La belle et la bete in French), so I checked out this collection oI was curious to read the original versions of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale (La belle et la bete in French), so I checked out this collection of translated French fairy tales from the library. (I wasn't confident enough in my French to try to read them in the untranslated eighteenth-century original.) There's a great introduction which explains a lot about the historical context in which the tales were created - they were a product of salon gatherings during Enlightenment-era France, and gradually developed and mutated as social, economic, and political conditions in France deteriorated under the rapacious and incompetent monarchy of the Ancienne Regime. Rich and highly educated women led these salons, and the tradition arose of telling long elaborate fairy tales that were supposed to sound like spontaneous creations, though in fact the women carefully composed them in advance and in writing and then memorized them so as to sound spontaneous and natural. The first version of Beauty and the Beast is actually quite bizarre ... it goes on and on and just gets weirder and weirder and weirder - I finally gave up on getting all the way through it and just skimmed it. The better-known abridged version that came later, at the hand of another "salonniere," is much better.
Interesting, but not anything you'd ever want to read to a kid ... these stories were meant for grown-ups....more
A hard-to-categorize book; what do you call quasi-historical allegorical theist semi-fantastical adult fiction? This is C.S. Lewis's inimitable retellA hard-to-categorize book; what do you call quasi-historical allegorical theist semi-fantastical adult fiction? This is C.S. Lewis's inimitable retelling of the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche - where a beautiful bride is married to a mysterious husband who forbids her ever to see his face. Half way through this, I realized I'd already read it, so many years ago I'd forgotten I had. Some of the same passages still resonated with me, but this time around, something that stuck out for me was how spare and fairy-tale-like the narrative style is; it really does read far more like some medieval or ancient allegory than a modern novel. Also, having done quite a bit of thinking about religion (and ultimately rejected religion) since I read it, the theist message hit me over the head like a two-by-four. It comes most intensely during the scenes where Psyche's sister Orual - the protagonist of the narrative - visits her for the first time after she's been left for the god of the mountain to devour, and the point seems to be: all the mystery surrounding God has important purposes, even if we don't know what they are; and: religious experience can never be understood from the outside (which I can still very much recognize as an important truth, even being on the outside now myself). Something that impressed me in Lewis's approach is that when Orual mourns that her choice not to believe felt inevitable, something she had no real choice in, Lewis seems to acknowledge that some of us can't simply choose to believe what seems untrue and fantastical, and that if we're ultimately punished for it by "the gods," the punishment isn't particular just. (Though in the end, his gods turn out to be merciful even to Orual the unbeliever.)...more
A beautiful annotated edition of the fairy tales containing twelve of Andersen's most popular stories for children plus twelve more stories for adultsA beautiful annotated edition of the fairy tales containing twelve of Andersen's most popular stories for children plus twelve more stories for adults. Includes "The Little Mermaid," "The Little Match-Girl," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Princess and the Pea," and "The Snow Queen," among others. There are also many classic, wonderful illustrations from past editions (including a lot of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, two of my favorites). The annotations are very informative and readable, not dry or scholarly. The introduction, biographical section, and the section on others' perceptions of Andersen, likewise make for very easy, interesting reading. This is a good edition either for reading aloud to a child or as a starting point for the general reader wanting to delve a little more deeply into Andersen. It doesn't go into scholarly depth, but offers a wealth of suggestions and ideas for further research. ...more
A book like no other - a charming, memorable, unbounded modern fairy tale for adults. Set in an indeterminate time and place (vaguely Slavic, vaguelyA book like no other - a charming, memorable, unbounded modern fairy tale for adults. Set in an indeterminate time and place (vaguely Slavic, vaguely Belle Epoque, with some medieval elements), it's the story of a good-hearted but widely despised magic shape-shifting dwarf ... a beautiful maiden strong as an ox who pretends to be stupid and weak so men will adore her ... and a prince who'd rather play the violin than joust. When they all decide to go up to the Suicide Mountains to end their lives, they meet each other, and storytelling and adventures ensue.
I had read this book many years ago, but it always stuck in my mind, and one day for someone reason I was trying to explain to my boyfriend how cool it was, and ended up wanting to re-read it. I had also forgotten how much I liked the illustrations. (This was part of the conversation where the book came up - more books for grown-ups should have illustrations! More books should have pictures!)
Gardner intersperses very traditional Brothers Grimm-esque fairy tales within an original, cleverly nontraditional framing narrative, laced with moments of very modern philosophical musings and humor. It's a quick read, and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I guarantee it will leave you with a lot to think about....more
I'd almost forgotten about this really charming book about a princess who befriends a river dragon, set in a kind of mythical version of medieval FranI'd almost forgotten about this really charming book about a princess who befriends a river dragon, set in a kind of mythical version of medieval France - I remember really enjoying it. (The reason I chose to read it will be obvious to anyone who knows me very well.)...more
The author does a nice job of keeping up the magical, fairy-tale-like atmosphere throughout, making this a good book to read if you are looking to beThe author does a nice job of keeping up the magical, fairy-tale-like atmosphere throughout, making this a good book to read if you are looking to be transported and escape to a prettier, more mystical world outside of gritty history and reality. Some of the "twists" on the "classic tale" are also clever, and in many passages the writing was engaging and deftly woven. Granted, every now and then there'd come a spot where I felt the voice slipped into something too modern or out-of-place, or something in the diction didn't work so well, but on the whole, the writing was definitely better than I've met with in a lot of fantasy writing, and comparable with other upscale, aiming-to-be-literary, book-club-selection type books.
I think this could be a good book for Christian readers, because without being overt or preachy, there are a number of references to Christian-sounding ideas about the soul, God, heaven, and salvation. (Enough to make me think the author was coming from a Christian standpoint, yet not so much that an I as an unbeliever/humanist reader felt overly excluded by it.) My more conservative (e.g. LDS/Mormon) reader friends might like to know in advance that there is some out-of-wedlock sex in the book, but not too graphic as these things go (no tumescent manhoods or anything like that!).
I definitely think the story will tend to appeal more to female readers. From a feminist standpoint, well, there are some nice female friendships and bonding, and some attempt to show strongish female characters, but there was also more chick-lit-style boy-craziness than I expected. The romances are not super nuanced or profound, and the male characters are all pretty two-dimensional.
Still, on the whole, a nice, light, quick read, and some interesting, smart variations on the ever-popular mermaid theme....more