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Some Kind of Fairy Tale

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2012)
It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone call from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery.

He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she's back, tired, dirty, disheveled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent traveling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim.

But her stories don't quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young woman who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter's parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara's one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it's as if she's off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family...

310 pages, Hardcover

First published July 10, 2012

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About the author

Graham Joyce

86 books534 followers
Graham Joyce (22 October 1954 – 9 September 2014) was an English writer of speculative fiction and the recipient of numerous awards for both his novels and short stories.

After receiving a B.Ed. from Bishop Lonsdale College in 1977 and a M.A. from the University of Leicester in 1980. Joyce worked as a youth officer for the National Association of Youth Clubs until 1988. He subsequently quit his position and moved to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Crete to write his first novel, Dreamside. After selling Dreamside to Pan Books in 1991, Joyce moved back to England to pursue a career as a full-time writer.

Graham Joyce resided in Leicester with his wife, Suzanne Johnsen, and their two children, Joseph and Ella. He taught Creative Writing to graduate students at Nottingham Trent University from 1996 until his death, and was made a Reader in Creative Writing.

Joyce died on 9 September 2014. He had been diagnosed with lymphoma in 2013.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,455 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
July 13, 2018
A fairy tale...on the other hand, demands of the reader total surrender; so long as he is in its world, there must for him be no other.

W.H. Auden

this is the epigraph which opens chapter three of joyce's novel, and it is a good place to start. this is a deceptively immersive type of storytelling, one which compels the reader forward, accepting the magical elements willingly, but then jarringly calling attention to the novel's very structure, questioning how much is "reality" and how much is artifice. it is magical metafiction.

graham joyce has really come a long way, as a writer. when i first started reading him, he was writing literary horror stuff, which was good, but never as good, to me, as jonathan carroll doing the same thing, and i always compared the two in my head, to joyce's detriment. i think his first departure from that style was smoking poppy, which i remember loving and being impressed by this range that seemed to come out of nowhere. since then, i have only read the silent land, which was also an ambitious book, but i think this one is even better.

here, he stretches itself, occasionally a little too thin, but he manages to tell a multi-layered story, with several levels of unreliability that pokes holes in its own narrative and becomes a puzzle box without an answer. he wants your "total surrender" to his world, but he also wants you to doubt.

the novel opens with on christmas day, when tara arrives on the doorstep of her parent's home. thing is, tara disappeared when she was sixteen, twenty years earlier, and yet she still appears as young as the day she left. tara claims to have been kidnapped by the fairies, and held for six months before she was able to return, having no idea how long she had actually been gone. she is baffled by modern technology, eats only fruit and nuts, and has developed an eye condition that makes bright light unbearable.

the story is told through an unknown narrator, tara's admissions to her psychiatrist, and his patient notes. and as we are told on the first page:

Of course, everything depends on who is telling the story. It always does. I have a story, and though there are considerable parts I've had to imagine, the way I saw it was as follows.

tara's claims are met with skepticism by her family. her parents want to believe her, but become increasingly frustrated with her behavior. her brother has his own family now, and wants to help tara, but he cannot believe her story, and hopes that the sessions will get to the bottom of the mystery. richie is the boyfriend she left behind, who was her brother's best friend,but tara's disappearance shattered that friendship, and richie has been in a holding pattern ever since; drink and drugs and rock and roll, going nowhere.

tara's reappearance brings everyone together once more, but the relationships become strained with her insistence on her story.

the psychiatrist's notes are what first start to break down the structure of the narrative. dr. underwood begins to analyze her story the way bettelheim analyzes traditional fairy tales in his uses of enchantment. this disruption of the narrative breaks the reader's gaze and forces the novel itself to be analyzed: archetypes, storytelling, lies, memory, integrity. it undermines its own professed goal - to be something surrendered to.

the fairy-world, as tara describes it,is not the sweetie-pie cottingly fairy variety. it is a realm of sensuality and science, equality and wildness. but mostly sex.

traditionally, the fairies stand in for some violation of the sexual mores of society. they are the wild force that whispers to us

tara is mostly revolted by the enhanced sexuality, but parts of that world may have followed her out, both physically and psychologically.

i don't want to get too plotty, here, but tara's presence in the "real" world becomes dangerous to those she loves. and she begins to change. there is a bitterness, a "you can't go back" nostalgia that has a feral cling to it, that starts to taint her world.

the story remains, like a fairy tale, ambiguous.do we believe tara, do we believe the psychiatrist, does our mind catch on the instances of switching in the story; one cat for another, one drunk driver for another,the larwood/larchwood scene, the multiple epigraphs to the bridget cleary case of 1895, in which a woman accused of being a changeling replaced by the fairies was killed by her husband? these burrs stick out in the reader's mind to create doubt, the way a fairy story is meant to, but there are other instances of the permeability of worlds - is it the residual sexuality of the fairy-world that causes jack to get an erection when he stands near tara? and his later erection in the cattery - is this woman meant to be another displaced fairy? and why no erection for larwood? had it faded too much? why am i dwelling on the erections of a child?

i feel like i didn't know what i was reading while i was reading it,in one giant sickbed sitting gulp, and this book is one which demands a second look, to better understand its playfulness and its dark underpinnings.

so, yeah - a good "next move" for joyce

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,228 reviews1,062 followers
April 30, 2022
Some Kind Of Fairy Tale is partly set in an Other World; a disturbingly fecund and pagan world inhabited by creatures of myth. Or is it? We are drawn to this other world, alongside the main character, by means of a series of images and archetypes as old as myth itself. Or are we?

"The Outwoods is a hundred acres of oak, rowan and birch, of holly and yew, trembling on the lip of an ancient volcanic crater and peering out over the Soar Valley; a timeless pocket of English woodland inside the boundaries of Charnwood Forest... The trees conduct and transfer energy around the woods. The land is a mysterious freak where the air is charged with an eerie electrical quality, alternately disturbing and relaxing. The earth echoes underfoot... Or all of this is just fanciful talk and the Outwoods is just an ordinary stretch of ancient woodland."

This is an unusual fantasy novel. It differs from from the accepted conventions within the genre, by the author's treatment of supernatural events. On one level this is a fantastic tale, on the other a mystery about ordinary folk, capable of rational explanation. There are not many fantasy novels where psychiatrists talk of the difference between provoked and contained confabulation, or hypopituitarism, or other physicians discuss X-rays and dissect the brain virtually, in order to establish the truth.

But what is the truth? A modern audience wants everything cut and dried, no ambiguity, and certainly nothing illogical. Yet that is a comparatively recent view. For centuries cultures have lived unquestioningly alongside inexplicable phenomena, seeing no conflict or difficulty integrating it with their lives. It was seen as a part of the natural order. Graham Joyce grew up in such a family, where the old folks accepted the mystical and supernatural as part of their daily lives. This has subsequently fed into his writing, with mystical themes running parallel to a rather humdrum storyline about ordinary folk. Take this image,

"The Lake hears your every word and knows your every thought." Or this one,

"The light was sinister and beautiful at the same time."

It's a tempting thesis, isn't it? One character Hiero (yes, well may you analyse that name) did not, "want to trade a space of light and beauty and knowledge for what he called a grubby set of shadows."

And Graham Joyce has successfully tapped into that primal yearning for magic inside us all, for a simpler, more accepting time, before all our rational doubts and questions.

Tara disappeared without trace when she was fifteen. At the start of the novel, one Christmas Day, she returns. But it is twenty years later, and she has apparently not aged. Therein lies the problem. We have clues straightaway. Each chapter is preceded with a quotation from an eminent writer such as Einstein or Dickens, or a piece of traditional folklore. The author says he has chosen writers, "whose work champions the fusion of Realism and the Fantastic". If the reader chooses, it may be read as a straight mystery novel, with all the explanatory material a scientific mind could expect. But then passages such as this one, about Peter, his sister Tara, and her boyfriend Richie, invite the reader to have another, more ancient, perspective,

"He had a large, lumbering physique, a gentle giant, slow-witted according to his own assessment; she by contrast was mercurial, slender-boned and sharp-tongued. He was earthly; she was aerial. He was made of clay and iron; she was made of fire and dreaming... Peter had a momentary vision of Richie up there in the clouds with her, and on fire."

So is Graham Joyce a fantasy writer? There doesn't seem to be a consensus on this, either by publishers or critics, although Some Kind of Fairy Tale won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2013. At other times his work has been classified as SF, horror, or even mainstream literature. In the main, he is thought of as a magic realist. But even Graham Joyce himself disagrees with this, saying that his writing is more akin to the English "weird tale" tradition, which includes such writer as Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood. He terms his style of writing as "Old Peculiar". The truth is that he writes speculative fiction, which overlaps our current convenient "genres", as arguably the best fiction does, and in its best parts conjures up similar feelings to these authors he admires. If his work has to have a label attached, then it is metafiction. He is a prolific writer, and has won many awards, including the O. Henry Award, for both his novels and short stories.

Graham Joyce grew up in a small mining village just outside of Coventry to a working-class family. His origins therefore are similar to those of D.H. Lawrence. Of this award, he says,

"I was truly stunned to get a standing ovation when I went to collect the award. It was as surprising as it was uplifting and it left me - a burly miner's son with an outstanding chip on his shoulder - with a heart fit to burst... Six months ago my skin was turning blue and I was flat-lining in a hospital bed in Leicester after having a terrible reaction to my first dose of chemotherapy."

His recent experiences then have also fed into this book, in addition to his early childhood ones. Perhaps they go some way to explain the imbalance between the parts. There is rather too much clinical analysis when the reader is expected to sustain suspension of belief. Our trained scepticism rears its ugly head. The family saga and lads-night-out scenario also becomes a little tiresome. The deconstruction is fascinating and unusual, but it might have been an even better novel if the fantasy element had been further described, as the writing is quite lyrical and beautiful in places, and to be brought down to earth quite so often isn't always welcome.

In the final analysis, although everything can be explained to the satisfaction of our current knowledge and reason, Graham Joyce deliberately entices us to believe in his "constructed dream, made of smoke and mirrors".

The character Tara herself objects to modern classifications,

"Histrionic personality disorder. They don't like being called fairies in the same way that I don't like being called histrionic."

And in an incident at the end, we hear the the author's voice in a rare moment,

"to reveal who had been watching him would be to reveal who has been telling you this story all along."
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,377 reviews1,437 followers
October 26, 2016
Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a fantasy set in modern times. Peter is a farrier (shoes horses and fixes small, metallic things). He has a lovely wife and four beautiful children. He also has a sister whom he hasn't seen for nearly twenty years, presumed dead. Imagine his surprise, when she shows up at their parent's home on Christmas Day. Where has she been? Where indeed...

The magic in this book isn't in your face, it's hidden in the shadows and rocks of the woods and glens- very much like I imagine magic really is: "The Outwoods was one of the last remaining pockets of ancient forest... It was an eerie place, swinging between sunlight and damp, flaring light and shadow; a venue of twisted trees, its volcanic slopes of ash and granite ruptured by mysterious outcropping crags of the very oldest rocks in Britain." pg 14, ebook.

I loved the twists and turns of the story and it had me questioning myself the entire time. Is Tara bonkers, injured in some way, or did something outside of her power actually spirit her away? "There is a veil to this world, thin as smoke, and it draws back occasionally and when it does we can see incredible things." pg 142, ebook.

I also loved how Joyce used quotations from poetry, books, and an actual trial where a man was convicted of killing his wife because he thought she was a changeling (can you imagine?!) to introduce a few of the chapters. It was chilling- the deadly combination of superstition and violence and the trial in question happened, not in the dark ages, but 1895. Here's Joseph Campbell's thoughts that preface Chapter Twenty-Six: "Nevertheless- and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol- the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know." pg 169, ebook.

I did not like the surprising vulgarity of this tale, the few violent moments it contains, or when something terrible happens to a neighborhood cat but, if such things don't bother you, you really must give Some Kind of Fairy Tale a try. If you don't already, it makes you believe in the possibility of other worlds and every day magic.

Some books with similar themes: Meeting the Other Crowd (non-fiction, but reads like fiction), Fairies: Real Encounters With Little People (non-fiction, again, reads like fiction) or Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds (classic work on real people and actual encounters with other worlds).
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,641 followers
February 20, 2016
3 stars

"There is a veil to this world, thin as smoke, and it draws back occasionally and when it does we can see incredible things."

This, my second Graham Joyce novel, forced me to ponder - what is reality and what is fantasy? Is there really a veil to the world that is drawn back, or do we have to use our own power and suspend our own disbelief in order to see beyond what is visibly evident? I felt I had to make these choices while reading this book and it seemed a curious exercise. My first Joyce novel, The Tooth Fairy, had a similar though more unsettling and darker tone throughout.

After disappearing following a walk in The Outwoods twenty years ago, Tara suddenly reappears and has much to answer to her parents, brother and former boyfriend. She has a tale to tell that is quite fantastical – or is it? Could she be telling the truth or is she suffering from some sort of trauma that has caused her to compensate by telling such an outlandish story? Her story is believable in its own fashion. Tara's brother convinces her to speak with a psychiatrist, Dr. Underwood, upon her return. I quite enjoyed this part of the novel and found Dr. Underwood's clinical explanations fascinating and plausible as well. Just now as I am writing this, I have to wonder if it is not a coincidence that the author chose to name the psychiatrist Dr. "Underwood". His reasoning is told in juxtaposition to Tara's story of her experiences after disappearing in "The Outwoods". Anyway, this just struck me now and I can't say if there is significance or not. Just as I can't quite draw a conclusion about what really happened on that day that Tara went missing.

I like Joyce's style of writing – good pacing, satisfying and interesting dialogue, well-drawn characters, and some vivid descriptions. The woods and the bluebells were perfectly enchanting:

"Their perfume stole the sense right out of your head. It turned you over and shook the juice right out of you. You couldn't walk between them that year, they were so dense; you had to swim in them. The madness of it! The scent was so subtle that it got all over you, in your nostrils, in your cavities, and on your fingers like the smell of a sweet sin. Didn't it bind you in blue lace and carry you away?"

Unfortunately, I felt the story fizzled out a bit for me towards the end. I can't quite pinpoint exactly what happened; maybe I just wanted more answers. But, I don't think that was the author's intention here. I may not be the kind of reader intended for this type of book. I struggle a bit with magical realism. When presented with a great fantasy novel, I can quickly adapt and grasp onto what I need to believe in order to fully engage with the story. Maybe I needed to visit the fantasy world here a little more often. I felt tied to the real world a bit too much – and when I felt tied in this way, I couldn't quite emerge from it. This in turn left me even more perplexed with the ending.
Profile Image for Joanne Harris.
Author 91 books5,665 followers
February 8, 2018
This book was a bit of an emotional ride. I knew Graham and liked him, and his death at such a young age came as quite a shock to me. For that reason I'd been putting off reading SOME KIND OF FAIRYTALE, but now that I have, it seems only fair to say that it's a marvellous story; subtle, nuanced and intelligent, filled with resonance and wonder and darkness. I can hear the author's voice very clearly; quiet and a little ironic, so close it's almost heartbreaking. Read it - it's special in all kinds of ways - but try to remember it in May, when the bluebells are flowering.
Profile Image for Tim The Enchanter.
350 reviews178 followers
February 1, 2016
My Number 9 Read for 2015

A Wonderful Surprise - 5 Stars

I picked this book up on a whim. The premise sounded rather interesting and I thought it was worth a shot. That said, there was little trepidation as I realized the book contained magical realism. My experience with this have ranged from great examples in the work of José Saramago to painful uses in drivel such as, The Boy Detective Fails. Having no previous experience with Graham Joyce, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had a deft had and could weave the elements of magical realism with great precision. One of the top 3 books I have read this year.

Plot Summary

The story opens on Christmas morning to the Martin family. Peter Martin are enjoying a hectic holiday feast while down the road his mother and father are also enjoying the same. Soon after drinking an excellent wine and eating the Christmas goose, Mr. Martin Sr. has a visitor at the door. Standing in front of him is his daughter, Tara, who had gone missing and was presumed dead 20 years earlier. With her arrival follows, joy, confusion and anger all of which are compounded by her story and her appearance. Tara looks as if she hasn't aged since her disappearance and by her own account, she believes she has only been gone for 6 months. What follows is a story that leaves the reader questioning the possible and the impossible and whether a fairy tale is truly better than real life.

My Take

I am not an expert in literature. I was an English Major for a year and a half and quickly realized that I did see eye to eye with the faculty and their approach. After receiving a graded paper that told me I was very close to misinterpreting a novel, I decided I needed to move on. The great thing about literature is that there is no single interpretation. Great novels can speak to many people and tell many different stories. I am interested in finding my own truth in a great work.

This is one of those novels that lends itself to many interpretation within its delicate layers. While I can't provide the literary definition of magical realism, I see it as the authors attempt to take the magical, the unreal, the unexplainable and weave into the world of the normal, the average or the mundane. To me, great magical realism leaves you searching for the "truth" even is an ultimate truth is not available.

I could take a more academic approach to this work and break it down and try an explain the various elements. If that is something you enjoy, this novel certainly provides the opportunity. I am more interested in the author's ability to develop and combine the various layers. On one level, there is a background "fairy tale" in the story told by Tara. There the reasoned and realistic story told through the notes and opinions of Tara's psychologist and when the elements are combined as a whole, we are given a modern day fairy story.

This novel was well suited to the audio version and I highly recommend it. It brought me back to may childhood, sitting and listening to my grandfather tell me fairy tales. In my mind, fairy tales are best told aloud. The author is a very skilled writer. The words and phrases are all expertly crafted and infused with meaning. This story can be enjoyed on many levels. If you are not interested in pulling apart and interpreting layers, the basic plot is very enjoyable and well worth your time.

Final Thoughts

I could break down each of the elements I enjoyed but it is suffice to say that is truly a complete novel. The reading (listening) experience was truly magical and left me pondering the my own conception of a fairy tale. The characters are engaging, the story is moving and the writing is superb. This novel resulted in a book hangover for me and as a result, I am unable to fully express my feelings on this one. I highly recommend it and hope you give it a try.
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 22 books543 followers
December 21, 2013
I've never heard of Graham Joyce before, but I plan to read more of his work. I loved this book. Not perfect, some flaws near the end (but that is subjectively based on my own feminine needs), but so inventive and original. It was very hard to put this down. Fans of Tana French's In the Woods will enjoy this too. Very British, heavy on place (set near some mysterious ancient woodlands over a volcanic fault), with a bit of a mystery thrown in.

It also starts on Christmas day, so perfect time of the year to read it. The plot: Tara returns, after disappearing for 20 years. Only she hasn't aged. She is still 16, and thinks she has been gone for 6 months. Joyce deftly arranges a mosaic of different povs that revolve around Tara and the truth of her story--was she abducted by fairies, as she claims?

Only these aren't your average Tinker Bell fairies. They are more like commune hippies that copulate constantly and have orgies and swim in an orgasmic lake. (You have to read it.) The book has gotten some criticism because of this take on fairyland and the crude language that takes you by surprise. It is, after all, written by a man. My feeling is that this supernatural world is the imagination of a male unconscious, not the feminine ethereal world we're used to seeing as fairyland in women's popular fiction.

This is gritty, humorous, and the characters are dead on. I usually hate reading from multiple povs but this is one of the few books where I enjoyed them.

There's a reason Stephen King put this in his top 10. Read it and enjoy the fantasy Joyce sets up. And wonder if it could be true...
Profile Image for Cayleigh.
433 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2012
A few minutes after I finished the book I gave it a 4 star rating on Goodreads, after sitting for a while and thinking it over I had to switch it down to a 3 star rating. First let me say this: I read the book in less than 12 hours. I was engrossed from page one until the end, my favorite chapters were those from Tara’s pov, the ones telling her tale of what happened to her and the mysterious man Hiero (pronounced “Yarrow”).

The shrink’s chapters were interesting as well, someone trying to find rational and very real diagnosis for Tara’s absence, subsequent 20 year memory “loss”, and unexplained lack of aging. Her brother and his family were an interesting mix into the story along with the woes of Peter’s son and the ginger cat, daily life still goes on even through a traumatic series of events.

I really liked Hiero, and I would have loved to know more about his motives for bringing Tara with him and protecting her as he did but this is ultimately what made me rate the book lower. I felt like there was a big gap where Hiero was concerned, crikey, he does some crazy stuff but his motives and most of his and Tara’s relationship is skipped over. Also, I resent that the land they go to has to be full of sex crazed citizens. How cliché, I thought for a few moments when Tara was explaining all of the wonderful advances his people had made with physics and the laws of nature and such that the sexuality of the place would be regulated to only a tiny mention, but no that had to take the forefront. But really so much more could have been built upon the fair folk’s higher understanding of life to which Tara apparently learns some interesting things yet that aspect is merely mentioned once and practically ignored for the rest. That left me unfulfilled with this story. Although I did enjoy reading it and would probably recommend it.

One more tiny thing, I really liked the quotes at the beginning of the chapters, though the ones concerning Michael Cleary were almost scary, what a sad event that happened to his wife.

Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
662 reviews
December 17, 2017
Graham Joyce has just become an author that I will be following. This story of a Tara Harris, teenage girl who disappeared in the woods only to return home virtually unchanged twenty years later has totally captured my heart. For two decades, her family and her lover have grieved and their lives were indelibly altered by Tara’s disappearance and yet now she returns telling a story that nobody can believe. Is this a story of something mundane such as kidnapping or is it something entirely different? And what impact does Tara’s return have on those who have struggled for years to come to terms with her absence?

Bottom Line: I loved this book because, from the first page to the last, it is imbued with a sense of the uncanny, am impression that there is something out there beyond our ken that makes the world just a little bit magical.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,496 reviews962 followers
May 8, 2023

I am sixteen years old and in only six months I have lived more than people five times my age. If you stay at home and plug your mouth with booze and your eyes with TV have you seen anything? Stay at home. Drink. Eat fat and sugar. Mow the lawn. What do I care?

Teenager Tara Martin disappears one fine day in May into the Charnwood Forest, devastating her family and making her boyfriend Richie the main suspect in her alleged murder.
Twenty years later, Tara knocks on her parents door on Christmas night, looking no older than the day she vanished, only with eyes that have looked into the abyss and beyond and with a wild story to tell. If she expected a warm welcome and tears of joy, Tara will be sorely disappointed.

Mum and Dad are just too shocked and bewildered by my coming home; Pete is in a rage with me; his wife looks at me like I’m a specimen of piss in jar; and then there’s the shrink who just stares at me like he wants to pull my pants down and spank me. And then there’s you, Richie. You, the man who hurt me most but the only one who can give me half a chance to work this all out.

This is the story of her kidnapping by fairies after falling asleep in a patch of wondrous bluebells in a clearing infused with old, old magick, as told by Tara first to her brother Pete, then to the shrink he makes her visit and later to her former boyfriend Richie, once a promising rock musician and now a broken and depressive outcast:

It was an eerie place, swinging between sunlight and damp, flaring light and shadow, a venue of twisted trees, its volcanic slopes of ash and granite ruptured by mysterious outcropping crags of the very oldest rocks in Britain.


Six months in the realm of the fairies translate into twenty years in our own reality, and nobody is ready to accept Tara is telling the truth, believing instead that she is delusional and trying to repress traumatic memories.
Graham Joyce asks us to consider whether truth even matters in this setting? Isn’t it more important to try to heal the wounds left by Tara’s disappearance, to try to understand why she is telling us such a fantastic and incredible tale?
To help with his argument, Joyce goes to the highest authorities in the field of fairy studies, prefacing each chapter with an extract from more popular and more easily recognized authors:

The iron tongue of midnight
hath told twelve;
Lovers, to bed;
‘tis almost fairy time.

William Shakespeare

My favorite quote, by Neil Gaiman, is missing from these epigrams, but the other ones are spot on and help us make the transition between the two realms: the psychological study of trauma and the magical world of the fairytales. Indeed, for practical purposes, for Tara, they are one and the same. From Shakespeare and Chaucer we move on to Charles Dickens, Lord Dunsany, Albert Einstein, Angela Carter, John Clute, W H Auden, W B Yeats, Charles Lamb, Joseph Campbell, A S Byatt, Charles de Lint and many other authors who took the fairies seriously and tried to teach us about their ancient wisdom.

She has enclosed the kingdom of her twenty years inside an acorn cup. She’s made it her own life. To understand it all, we have to approach her tale in the same way that we would approach a dream, looking for clues that add up to a pattern that will inform us about the present state of her wounded psyche.

This is the sort of story that makes me regret Graham Joyce has made his own exit from our realm too soon, at the height of his creative talent. He makes the storytelling seem almost effortless, so natural, so clear in exposition, yet charged with emotion and with meaning. Family matters in his work as much as the intellectual exercise, in particular the dialogue, the conflict between generations. Such is young/old Tara, who is pulled between the pain of seeing her parents diminished, tired and resigned to a bleak routine, her own brother Pete transformed into a conventional and slightly boring homeowner, her once wild boyfriend into a sort of shipwrecked soul.

In front of her shrink, Tara revisits her time among the fairies, a sort of wild, murderous and sexually promiscuous commune that will echo for some readers the times of the Flower Power generation. Tara feels both attracted and horrified by the violence and the alienness of the realm she was cast in, and tries repeatedly to come back into the fold, into her previous timeline.
This too is open to interpretation, given to us through the notes the psychiatrist makes:

I happen to think that all people who believe in God are delusional. I just don’t think it’s a bad thing. Let’s say that they are constructing a delusion in a positive and useful way, in a way that helps them in life. For the moment I want you to see what Tara is doing in the same way. She is constructing a useful delusion.

Now we know that memory is reconstruction, and that we remake our memories each time we visit them, more or less according to our values and experiences, which may of course have changed since the date of the events we memorize.

But can this doctor be trusted? or has he his own agenda, his own project to use Tara as his test subject? Who can she turn to in this suddenly twenty years older reality? In a more ominous preface to the unfolding events, the author quotes extensively from a 1895 Irish crime case: the murder of Bridget Cleary by her husband, who believed she was abducted by fairies and replaced with a changeling.
The argument of Joyce is that we are still as a society not too far ahead of witch burning, of condemning people who think and act differently than the majority, that we must remain vigilant and open to strangeness.
Tara struggles hard to make her story heard, but even her own family is treating her as an outcast. Wouldn’t she be better off returning to the other realm, the more dangerous one for sure, but maybe the more understanding of her soul?


I am not going to spoil the outcome of the novel, which is also the reason I left out a couple of subplots involving Tara’s teenage nephew, an elderly neighbour who had probably trespassed herself through a bluebell patch, and a fairy with a split personality who both respects Tara and stalks her mercilessly [this was the weakest link in the daisy chain, according to Jeff Vandermeer].
So, I will close my review with one last epigram from one the authors Graham Joyce used as his research material:

Our lives are mythic journeys, and our happy endings are still to be won.
Terry Windling
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,738 reviews14.1k followers
August 19, 2012
First I just love the way he writes, intelligently but infinitely readable. A young woman goes missing, her boyfriend at the time is presumed guilty but it cannot be proven, she reappears twenty years later with an unbelievable story. Her parents and brother send her to a psychiatrist to see if she is mentally ill. Enjoyed the character of the crusty old psychiatrist, but my favorite character was Richie. The author does a fantastic job with this character, showing how his growth was stunted because of these unproven accusations and how he actually somewhat quit living twenty years ago as well. Sometimes things are just unbelievable, but the author makes us question this. Could these outlandish stories just sometimes be true?
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,978 followers
December 29, 2019
This is a well-written Fairy Tale in all the grand tradition of fairy tales, including the unconscious desires, the spiriting away, the self-discovery, the missing time, and then the return to our shadow world.

What makes this special is the care given to the two main characters of Tara, the girl who came back, and Richie, the man whose life was put on hold for twenty years. It's modern. It's also nicely bracketed with modern psychology, giving us all a way to view all the events and the story that Tara tells from the accepted view.

Of course, we're not really supposed to relate to it that way, but it's really striking how much Tara is not believed despite some glaring giveaways: such as not aging. The number of hoops that so many of them go through to explain it away makes this whole novel BELIEVABLE. Scarily so.

Good stuff. You must love the mystery of the Fae, however. :)
Profile Image for Lacey Skorepa.
8 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2012
I'm really confused at to why this book has garnered such high ratings. I'm currently in an English Literature graduate program where I study fairy tales so I was pretty excited to get this book (because I'm particularly interested in revisionist fairy tales), but the book was a HUGE let down. It was even more of a let down because I could see the genius behind the concept, Joyce just didn't deliver on it. The most brilliant aspect of the novel was what Joyce did with the fairies and their world (turning commonly held fairy notions - like their size, fluttering innocence, inherent goodness and kindness - upside down). Yes, Joyce's faeries (who loathe being labeled as such) live in a forest, but they are also: human sized predatory libertines. Joyce gives us an image of faeries that is more akin to the Victorian and pre-Victorian images of faeries. Yet, the major flaw in the novel is that we just don't get to spend as much time in the fairy world or with the faeries as one would like (maybe 15% of the novel really takes place in or directly concerns the faerie culture). The majority of the novel takes place in the real world and revolves around the main character Tara (how her disappearance affected those closes to her - which is boring - and her trying to convince those people that she was taken by a fairy). The bits with the psychologist that Tara's brother makes her see (as well as the psychologist's writings on her "condition") are supremely tedious and boring (I was forced to skim most of them because I was so annoyed). The focus was not in the right place and the faerie world culture was so interesting (even though we only get little bits of it) that the real world becomes extremely boring and the pace of the story beings to drag. At times I was practically skimming the pages in an attempt to get to one of Tara's recollections of her time spent in the faerie world. Then towards the end we are introduced to an elderly woman who was also kidnapped by the faeries (just like Tara) and we get hardly any of her story. Her story seemed like it would have been extremely interesting: both her experience in the fey world as well as in the asylum upon her return, yet, we get hardly any of it. Overall, I think the focus was wrong and this created several other problems (disjunction and pacing to name a couple). I'd hoped for better.
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,789 reviews37 followers
October 11, 2021
Oct 9, 1230pm ~~ Review asap.

Oct 10, 1130pm ~~ If you were to disappear without a trace for twenty years and then suddenly return to your family, how would you explain where you had been and what you had been doing?

You can't lie about it, you have always been almost brutally honest. But if you told the truth, would anyone believe you? How far would you go in your efforts to explain what actually happened to you? Could anyone truly comprehend what you are telling them?

This is Tara Martin's dilemma. She wants to tell her family but does she dare? She starts with brother Peter, who seems the most angry with her. She takes a walk with him out to the very patch of woods where she disappeared and explains to him exactly what happened. How she rode off with a man who took her to the place he lived. Which turned out to be another dimension and she literally could not return for six months.

But six months for her was twenty years in her family's world. Everyone looked so old when she returned! She herself still looked like a sixteen year old girl. Mostly. There was something different about her, though. Something nobody could quite pin down.

So how does Peter react to the truth? And her former boyfriend Richie, what about him? He had been suspected of murder. How can she atone for the suffering she put him through? And what will that snobby psychiatrist think of the whole situation? Will Tara ever settle down and live a normal life? Could she even do that after what she has seen? Oh, and one more question ~~ who is it that seems to be following her around now?

I enjoyed this book very much. It is my third by this author, and I have gone and ordered one more (Requiem). There are two others that I will keep an eye out for. But after looking through GR blurbs and reviews of Joyce's many other titles, I imagine that these will be my last Joyce books. Some sound too creepy for me. I don't mind a little touch of suspense but I don't want to be scared out of my wits. I can't afford to lose any! lol

There was a song that I could not keep out of my head while reading this book. When I was a girl my Mother had an album by a folk group called The Limeliters. We played that album a lot and I especially loved a song called The Little Land. Even though some of the details about this enchanted place are different than those in the story, the song was still an excellent soundtrack for Some Kind
Of Fairy Tale. Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YQdp...

Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books785 followers
January 8, 2014
4 and 1/2 stars

I grew up reading a lot of fairy tales, ones I found at the library, most notably the "colored" fairy books of Andrew Lang; when I was finished with one volume, I checked out the next. I'm grateful it was before the time of the ubiquitous sanitized Disney versions, which is probably one reason this novel's Tara, who believes she's been whisked away to live with the fairies, says they don't like being called that.

Tara's account of being away echoes and comments on the lives of the other characters, who are dealing with time and loss of youth in various ways. It's very well-done and elevates the novel to more than 'just' a genre read, reminding me of Neil Gaiman in that. The novel's also very "British" in terms of place and in the innumerable, almost-ritualistic cups of tea made and drunk. (I loved all that.)

Though this is a thoroughly modern novel, the author reaches back to the old beliefs, leading each chapter off with epigraphs as far back as Chaucer. I found the quotes from the 19th-century trial transcript of Michael Cleary, who was convinced he killed not his wife but a fairy changeling, fascinating. The epigraphs lead us to chapters of alternating points-of-view (including that of a psychiatrist who basically deconstructs Tara's tale a la Bruno Bettelheim), gorgeous descriptions of scenery, and flawed characters we come to understand and root for: all adding up to increasing levels of ambiguity, unease and creepiness: dark catharsis, one of the best reasons to read any kind of fairy tale.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,308 reviews20 followers
August 10, 2018
This is easily the novel I have enjoyed the most this year. I loved every minute of it and didn't want it to end.

I've not read any Graham Joyce before but I'll certainly be reading more of his work now. Simply beautiful.
Profile Image for Lisa B..
1,279 reviews6 followers
July 27, 2012
My head is spinning. This book was utter craziness and I enjoyed every minute of it. I absolutely could not put it down.

Tara tells a very interesting story (fairy tale?) about what happened to her while she was missing. The whole story unfolds from several different perspectives - Tara, Peter, Richie and Dr. Underwood, a psychiatrist that was hired to help determine what might be going on with Tara. Of course Dr. Underwood has many psychiatric explanations for Tara’s story and it is a bit interesting on how the tables get turned on him towards the end.

I especially enjoyed Richie and the craziness of Peter’s children.

What to think, what to think. Could Tara’s story really be true? Hmmmmm, I know what I think, but you’ll have to read the book yourself. Warning: enter this book at your own risk!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday for allowing me to read this book for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Cher.
801 reviews275 followers
March 26, 2016
4.5 stars - Incredible. I really loved it.

Such an enchanting, warm and comforting read (not in the Hallmark way, in the oh this is so good I could eat it up kind of way). Hated to see it end, and that is always a premium literary compliment. Simply beautiful story-telling.

Favorite Quotes: Youth fears nothing because it knows nothing.

First Sentence: In the deepest heart of England there is a place where everything is at fault.
Profile Image for Chris.
526 reviews82 followers
February 15, 2013
This is the second Graham Joyce book that I have read and, to my perhaps simplistic view, these novels revolve around core themes. In The Silent Land the theme was love. In Some Kind of Fair Tale it is loss of time/youth.

Peter's sixteen year old sister Tara disappears while taking a walk among the Spring flowers and woods near her home. She returns on cold Christmas day twenty years later, cold, tired, dirty, and to all appearances not having aged in those twenty years. She claims to have spent those years (which to her were only 6 months) with the race of magical creatures that we would call Fairies, although we learn that they not only don't like that term, but that they are very physical and more dangerous and aggressive than we imagined.

Woven into a story that is both realistic as well as fantastic is the theme of the loss of youth and of time.

Profile Image for Liviu Szoke.
Author 29 books364 followers
December 18, 2015
Da, am terminat una din cele mai frumoase povești fantasy pe care am citit-o vreodată. Totul este perfect așezat, fără înflorituri, direct, percutant, personajele sunt create cu micile lor neajunsuri, ceea ce le transformă în oameni, nu în manechine însuflețite, iar acțiunile lor ne dau de înțeles exact același lucru. Citiți-o și recitiți-o pe îndelete, pentru că merită să te scufunzi între paginile ei și nu-ți va părea că ți-ai irosit nici măcar un minuțel din viață. Mai multe, pe FanSF: http://wp.me/pz4D9-2ju.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,549 reviews109 followers
April 20, 2019
This was a great read. I was a little scared when I first picked it up that it was going to be too fairy taley, (which I pretty much hate), but I have been looking forward to reading more of Joyce’s work for a while and a few of my friends spoke highly of it, so I gave it a go.

Super glad I did.

Peter Martin’s sister Tara shows up after disappearing into the woods when she was 16. As to her whereabouts for the past 20 years, she tells some kind of story. Some kind of fairy tale.

And a very well written and entertaining tale it was.

A solid 4+ Stars and Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Ariel .
262 reviews13 followers
February 21, 2016
On Christmas day, as snow begins to fall for the first time in ten years, there's a knock at the door. A present no one thought to expect has arrived and it brings with it a whirlwind of emotion, mystery, and the heady scent of bluebells.

Twenty years ago Tara Martin went for a walk in The Outwoods; somewhere, in the midst of its hundred acres of aged birches and yews that lie "trembling on the lip of an ancient volcanic crater" where the very "air is charged with an eerie electrical quality, alternately disturbing and relaxing," Tara disappeared. Her disappearance was followed by turmoil and chaos. Her parents, her brother, and her boyfriend reel from the shock and the emotional eruption devastates all in various ways. As this devastation seethes and froths through the years, making itself known in the various channels a life can take, each character we come to meet in Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale has been brought forth to the precipice of the loss of Tara in one way or another, have experienced some change in themselves because of it.

Then there's a knock and every assumption, hope, possibility of a miracle that have shaped said precipice are brought to a standstill as Tara arrives on the doorstep with a story of whim inspired travels, a shabby appearance, and a pair of dark glasses.

Her parents are grateful and protective but her brother has questions. Is this really Tara? Why show up after all this time? Where has she been? Why isn't she telling the truth?

He's her brother after all, he knows she's holding something back. But what?

All of this serves Joyce's readers a satisfying mystery in itself. It fits into a ready-made Mystery/Suspense bolthole.

And yet Joyce goes a bit Shakespeare's Night's Dream and leads us "up and down, up and down..." with the help of some faerie dust and lore so that the mystery at hand is spun out into a complex pattern of mystique, fantasy, psychology, and magical realism.

I found the interplay between genres to be captivating and refreshing. There were a few parts that didn't go as deep as I would have wanted but, overall, it was a very interesting read. I'd never heard of Joyce prior to this book but his an author I think I'll be looking out for from now on.

I will say that I both liked and disliked the book's ending. I figured it would be left in the mist a bit but was hoping it would be so far out into the midst so as to leave us quite so puzzled. I think I would have enjoyed Joyce drawing more out from various aspects of the novel. It seemed so cut off in parts which was really the determining factor in my 3 star rating. Love the idea, like the characters, but needed more material. I really wanted to grasp a bit more of Tara's surroundings in this 'Otherworld' - instead the last bit we get from that perspective of things is more acid trip than dimension building. I also wanted more of Tara and Richie. I'm not a big romance person so it's not that I was looking for swooning. I really just wanted to see a psychological/emotional development bloom there; at least one made of deeper stuff than what we experience as the reader. It seemed rushed and that somewhat broke down the atmosphere of the mystique for me.

As Tara speaks of the bluebells, "Their perfume stole the sense right out of your head. It turned you over and shook the juice right out of you. You couldn't walk between them that year, they were so dense; you had to swim in them. The madness of it! The scent was so subtle that it got all over you, in your nostrils, in your cavities, and on your fingers like the smell of a sweet sin. Didn't it bind you in blue lace and carry you away?" That blissful, plunging prose is what I wanted more of. I wanted prose that rang of sweet sin, that invaded all senses and it seems as if Tara's chapters tease at such a wealth of such ability to allow build and bloom.

So I hope to see more of said build and bloom in any future Joyce reads. I feel that he has plenty of talent and intriguing ideas to pluck from.
Profile Image for Jalilah.
374 reviews91 followers
November 29, 2016
This brilliant novel is an unusual mix of the fantastical with everyday reality.
On a Christmas afternoon Tara shows up at her parents house. Exactly twenty years before she had taken a walk into the woods and never come back. She does not look a day older than 16, the age she was when she disappeared, except that she wears sunglasses because her eyes are sensitive to bright light, even when she's indoors.
Her stories of where she's been don't add up, so finally Tara admits ( or claims depending how one sees it) that she was lead by a man on horse back to a magical place, where the people live in cabins without electricity, only eat nuts, seeds and fruit and have orgies all the time. It would seem she had been at a hippy commune except for the fact that Tara claims she only spent 6 months in this place and that it was impossible to leave except for at certain times of the year.
Although she never uses the term herself, her family assumes she is claiming to have been "in Faerie", so they take her to see a psychiatrist who analyzes her.
Another aspect to the story is Richie, Tara's ex-boyfriend and musician who had to live with the cloud of suspicion after her disappearance.
This is exactly the kind of book that appeals to me because like in the works of another favourite author of mine, Charles de Lint, the "realistic" part of the story and interpersonal relationships are equally important as the "magical" part. Some Kind of Fairy Tale also has similarities with Among Others by Jo Walton in that one could say the magical or fantastical aspects of the book are ambiguous because the narrators are unreliable.
Finally I greatly appreciated quotes by Bruno Bettelheim from his book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales and from Marina Warner and from From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, as well as information on The case of Bridget Cleary, an Irish woman killed by her husband who believed that she had been abducted by Faeries with a changeling left in her place.
This is a very satisfying read that was hard to put down!

Profile Image for Britany.
967 reviews417 followers
May 26, 2015
I actually enjoyed this more than I initially thought I would. This is my first book by Graham Joyce- who passed away late last year, and I was impressed with the writing. The story lacked a little bit for me. The different chapters started out with a "fairy-ish" themed quote which was a little distracting, and each chapter was told from a different perspective.

Tara Martin disappears into the Outwoods near her home one random afternoon, never to be seen again-- Until a knock at her parents door, twenty years later comes Tara! Tara hasn't aged a bit and comes back with a grandiose idea that she went into a different realm which equated to 6 months to her, while the rest of the world passed by twenty years. I enjoyed the fantasy quality and the characterizations of some of the characters. Hated the psychologist sections, but overall appreciated this book.
Profile Image for Amber.
992 reviews
November 20, 2018
This was a good read about a girl who was spirited away 20 years ago and returns only to have her sanity questioned. Will she be able to tell the truth? Check this book out for yourself and find out. It's available at your local library.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,631 followers
November 20, 2014
Graham Joyce passed away this fall after a battle with an aggressive form of cancer, but that's not why I'm giving this book five stars.

He was one of the kindest, funniest, most interesting people I've ever met; so generous and thoughtful in person that he made everyone in the room feel like they were terribly important, and very dear friends of his. But that's not why I'm giving this book five stars, either.

I'm giving this book five stars because it's brilliant. I'm giving it five stars because it's gorgeous. I'm giving it five stars because I've spent all day pacing my house, reading, alternately laughing and crying. I can't decide if I love it more than The Facts of Life, or if I love them equally, but if you've ever heard me talk about his book The Facts of Life, you'll understand that that's saying something. This book so perfectly captures humanity: mothers, sons, wives, daughters, husbands, friends, neighbors, their struggles together and against one another, and it does it so delicately that I'm just in awe of his writing. So tender and so humane, so loving, but without putting an unreal shine on life.

Just go, get a copy of this book. This achingly beautiful book.
Profile Image for Barbm1020.
251 reviews14 followers
August 8, 2012
Finished it. Five stars to Graham Joyce! Good writing with no author intrusions, just the right amount of just the right details, full of clues cleverly hidden in plain sight and narration so smooth it was like watching it all happen. Great characters, and even though there were several possible endings, he picked the most appropriate one. Homage with every chapter to the best folklorists who have dealt with this theme. If you love classical fantasy, you'll love this book.
Profile Image for Laura.
822 reviews244 followers
August 13, 2018
I’m disappointed, that is all. Expectations were not met.
Profile Image for Dustin the wind Crazy little brown owl.
1,079 reviews144 followers
December 29, 2022
All I ask is that for one second you open up your mind, for one second, and allow the possibility for that one second that I might be telling you that something extraordinary happened. Really happened. Then after that one second you can go back to thinking I'm a liar or I'm insane or whatever you want. But I demand it, I demand one second. . . . . There is a veil to this world, thin as smoke, and it draws back occasionally, and when it does we can see incredible things. Incredible things, Richie. - Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Chapter 21

As one who believes in alternate realities and has had encounters with fairies, gnomes and magical wildlife in the forest, I was immensely intrigued with this story. Packed full of historic and literary quotes - below are some of my favorites:

Wonder has no opposite; it springs up already doubled in itself, compounded of dread and desire at once, attraction and recoil, producing a thrill, the shudder of pleasure and of fear.
-Marina Warner

A fairy tale . . . on the other hand, demands of the reader total surrender; so long as he is in its world, there must for him be no other.
- W. H. Auden

Are you a witch
Are you a fairy?
Are you the wife
Of Michael Cleary?

Come away, O human child: To the waters and the wild
with a faery, hand in hand
For the word's more full of weeping than you can

Fairy tales are about money, marriage and men. They are maps and manuals that are passed down from mothers and grandmothers to help them to survive.

The modern superstition is that we're free of superstition.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

The English word fairy comes to us via the Old French faerie, deriving from the Latin fata, meaning fate and fatum, meaning oracle or utterance.

Nevertheless - and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol - the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know.

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.

Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.

Creating simplicity often makes the heart leap; order has been restored, the crooked made straight. But order is understanding that things cannot be made simple, that complexity reigns and must be accepted.

There is neither explanation nor teaching in the true wonder tale.

The fey wonders of the world only exist while there are those with the sight to see them.

Our lives are our mythic journeys, and our happy endings are still to be won.

Here is one amusing line from the story, when two passengers in a car were trying to switch places: Peter tried to squirm from under Richie but got the gear stick up his ass.... (Chapter 24)

Other Favorite Passages:
In the deepest heart of England there is a place where everything is at fault. That is to say that the land rests upon a fault; and there, ancient rocks are sent hurtling from the deep to the surface of the earth with such force that they break free like oceanic waves, or like monstrous sea creatures coming up for air. Some say that the land has still to settle and that it continues to roil and breathe fumes, and that out of these fumes pour stories. Others are confident that the old volcanoes are long dead, and that all its tales are told.
Of course, everything depends on who is telling the story. It always does. I have a story and though there are considerable parts I've had to imagine, the way I saw it was as follows.

After decades of turkey dinners on Christmas Day they were having a change, because a change is as good as a rest . . .

"What happened?"
"Long Story."
"You know what, Richie?" Genevieve said. "Round here, everyone's story is long, but no one's telling it."

The Outwoods is a hundred acres of oak, rowan, and birch, of holly and yew, trembling on the lip of an ancient volcanic crater and peering out over the Soar Valley, a timeless pocket of English woodland inside the boundaries of Charnwood Forest. It's rock formation contain the oldest of fossils. In its mineral soil rare plants flourish. The inspirational red-and-white-spotted fly agaric mushrooms spore and fatten around the gleaming silver birches, sucking sugars from the roots and feeding back minerals and water. The trees conduct and transfer energy around the woods. The land is a mysterious freak, where the air is charged with an eerie electrical quality, alternately disturbing and relaxing. The earth echoes underfoot.

"Some people feed you with love," Tara said, "and some people love you with food."

Oh, yes, the bluebells were out in May. Do you remember how they were? Their perfume stole the sense right out of your head. It turned you over and shook the juice right out of you. You couldn't walk between them that year, they were so dense; you had to swim in them. The madness of it! The scent was so subtle that it got all over you, in your nostrils, in your cavities, and on your fingers like the smell of a sweet sin. Didn't it bind you in blue lace and carry you away?
We walked there together that year, didn't we? There were tiny paths between the bluebells and I went off the path and you told me I'd be punished for going off the trail, for treading bluebells underfoot. You said there was a law against it. But you meant lore.

I'll give you a story if it's a story you want. I almost wrote a song about it, but it didn't come out right. It was supposed to be a love song and it ended up sounding like a protest song. Though most love songs are protest songs, when you think about it.

"Is there something wrong with our aunt Tara?" said Amber.
"What do you mean by 'wrong'?" said Genevieve.

"Bugger bugger bugger fuck."

He also had a great way of listening. It was as if everything I said to him was important. Counted for something. And it was like that with everything he said, too. Nothing lost, or loose. We rested there amid the bluebells with our heads leaning against the moss-covered stone and with the lark twittering in the infinite sky, and it was if time didn't shift.

It's like a door opens in my mind. A big, creaking black door. Behind the black door is the possibility . . .

What are you on, crack cocaine?
Don't need it where I've been.

"By the way. Who was that laughing lunatic with the bandaged head?"

There was something unsettled and unsettling about the earth and the landscape in that place. As if it were remolding itself all the time.

"I said to Michael, shit, that's my aunt Tara, and she was out of it, doing this weird dance, jumping up and down - "
"Pogo," Michael said.
"Right, pogo, shit dancing, but like someone's put a firework up her ass, and swigging from whatever it is in the plastic bottle and all those stupid boys around her have got the hots for her and I thought there's gonna be trouble. I nearly phoned you."
"Why didn't you?"
"Well, I didn't. Anyway, after a while she starts flashing her tits and all this - "
"Stop stop stop," Peter said. "Is this true?"

"I'd rather stick my dick in a high-speed kitchen blender than go back to being a teenager."

"Have you ever told a story over and over so many times that it gets worn smooth and some of the truth gets knocked off the edges? After a while you even start to doubt it yourself because you've told it too often."

"You been suckin' a lemon, Jack?"
"No. I haven't."
"Has he been suckin' a lemon?" Richie asked Amber.

You have no idea. You can't begin to see. You have eyes and yet you walk in the shadows. You have ears and they are stuffed with noise. You can't take a caress without flinching. You have food and spices from all continents and nothing surprised your palate anymore. Your lips don't even know how to speak. You shout, you mumble, you strangle your words. Right, you say to me. Right.

Twenty years is, after all, a long time. We are not the same people we were. Old friends, lovers, even family members: they are strangers who happen to wear a familiar face. We have no right to claim to know anyone after such a distance . . . .
Profile Image for Elisa.
53 reviews1 follower
June 27, 2013
Summary: Tara, who had disappeared as a teenager 20 years ago, comes back home. She hasn't aged a bit, and claims to have just been gone for six months. She says that after she got in a fight with her boyfriend (she got pregnant and then got an abortion without telling him), some mysterious stranger on a white horse (seriously) comes by and whisks her off across a river (or something like that) and into this mysterious, alternate-universe type of land. It's some other existence entirely - time passes differently, people have magical powers, there's a broader array of colors and sounds to experience. Oh, and the people are complete sex freaks - they do it whenever, wherever, and with whomever they feel like it. It's not an expression of anything and, although every other experience in this place is heightened, sex means nothing. There's a lake that orgasms (seriously) and when it does, everyone takes off their clothes, holds hands (seriously), and has a communal orgasm. Seriously. Anyway, Tara's back and she reunites with her old boyfriend, who has made nothing of himself because he has spent the last twenty years being pretty much a loser (no family, no friends, no career, lives in a rat-infested apartment) pining for Tara. Boyfriend starts getting these massive migraines, which are later determined to be malignant tumors. He's given six months to live. Small problem. Another small problem - remember the dude that whisked her off to Neverland? Well, he followed her back to reality and how he's stalking her, hiding behind trees and watching her every move. And randomly starting fights with boyfriend. [Hmm..maybe this is a 2-star, not a 3-star, book.] Tara has a talk with the old lady who lives next door, who as it turns out, was also abducted by the fairies years and years ago. Old lady neighbor tells Tara about how her (old lady neighbor) husband got sick after she returned home - old lady neighbor says that after someone comes back from Neverland, they are changed forever and whatever it is that changes about them, is bad for the people they love. So, Tara leaves and goes back to living with the fairies.

The book is written in a way that sucks you right in. It's told from the perspective of several characters in the book, a technique I am a complete sucker for. The book was hard to put down -- I even managed to snap right out of bed when my alarm went off this morning because I wanted to finish the book so badly.

But, as engaging as it was, I left the book feeling completely unsatisfied. While the premise of the story (the existence of some 'hidden' corner of -- or an alternate -- world) is interesting, the reader (well, at least this admittedly dense reader) isn't led to really explore the idea. There are some sub-themes - sexuality, aging/growing up, nature, sacrificing for love -- that are superficially hinted at, but not taken advantage of. There was a fairy tale theme tying things together, but there was no specific nuanced idea that was expressed.

The plot was also disappointing - it was pretty much "Tara goes back to Neverland, where she belongs. Her friends and family are confused, but understand on some level. Oh, and boyfriend's tumor miraculously disappears. The end." Also disappointing was the way Tara decides to leave for good -- almost on a whim. There wasn't any maturity or growth displayed by the decision she ultimately makes.

Overall - Enjoyable, but not a thought provoking novel, by any means.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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