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A Wild Swan: And Other Tales

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  3,927 ratings  ·  767 reviews
Fairy tales for our times from the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Hours. A poisoned apple and a monkey's paw with the power to change fate; a girl whose extraordinarily long hair causes catastrophe; a man with one human arm and one swan's wing; and a house deep in the forest, constructed of gumdrops and gingerbread, vanilla frosting and boiled sugar.

In A Wild Swan a
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,927 ratings  ·  767 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Most avid readers have a few authors they feel zealous about...
greedy, fanatical, devoted, .... ( perhaps in a nutty way), and they aren't your husband,
wife, or child. What's going on with these voracious bookworms?

I suspect these type of bookworms are not Hollywood star struck in any shape or form..
but talk about one of their favorite authors that can do no wrong...
those authors where they can no longer review without bias...( not completely)...
and it's like witnessing a gushy book fan in heat!
Diane S ☔
Jun 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Not the usual type of book I read but am willing to try anything written by this author. To my surprise I enjoyed it very much. Taking many of our beloved fairytale and giving them a very inventive modern twist was pure entertainment. Many were extremely amusing, so very clever. But..... while Cunningham's wit and originality were in fine display I missed his ingenious plots and his expansiveness that is more adequately displayed in his novels. Still very entertaining, a quick read that was more ...more
Althea Ann
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Fairy tale retellings are one of my 'things,' so I had to pick this up when I came across it on the library shelf. I haven't read anything else by this Pulitzer Prize-winning author, so I can't compare this to his other writings.

The stories collected here are very consistent in 'feel' throughout. Each takes a fairy tale (or other well-known tale), and injects it with a dash of the modern-day (without wholly removing its more 'classic' elements), and twists the story a bit in order to accentuate
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Cunningham presents some new spins on beloved classics with this short collection of retellings, updates and continuations of folk and fairy tales for adults.

There's some fun and provocative stuff here - crazy cat ladies who build gingerbread houses, ne'er-do-wells and their beanstalks, closet necrophiliacs who wake sleeping princesses . . .

Most are worthy of three stars, with a few fivers scattered about. I truly love the last tale - an original offering about how we can make our own fairy tal
Larry H
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

The idea of putting twists on the fairy tales we know and love isn't a new one. Many books have given these familiar tales a modern spin, a more macabre tone, even made them more politically correct, as the originals were decidedly not!

In A Wild Swan and Other Tales , Michael Cunningham, one of my favorite authors, tries to humanize the tales a bit, modernizing them, and imbuing many with more emotion and character development than the originals offered. He looks at some
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I spotted this slim book while browsing the 'new' shelves of the library one evening. I feel drawn to retellings of fairy tales, though so many end up disappointing me. Because I enjoy Cunningham's writing, I didn't think twice about checking out this book.

I wasn't excited about any of the stories until I got to the seventh (out of eleven), the story titled "Little Man" (Rumpelstiltskin), easily my favorite, which has a perfect reason to use second-person narration. With it, Cunningham does one
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-ebook, quest
This is one of the most enjoyable collection of short stories I've read since Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. If anything, the characters here where written with more impact and depth. Carter is a master at ambiance, but Cunningham mastered character creation in short form here.
The illustrations are absolutely haunting.


I highly recommend this one!
Michael Cunningham is the author of The Hours, a book inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway which won him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was later adapted into a successful movie. I have never read the book nor seen the film, though I really enjoyed the musical score by Philip Glass, which might be his finest work for film (you can listen to it here - I don't think you will be disappointed).

A Wild Swan is his first collection of short stories, and one which I approached with certain in
Mar 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to TL by: Wart Hill
Narrators - Lili Taylor and Billy Hough : 4 stars
Their narrations were just right for the stories, giving them that extra spark. There is one where they were narrate together that was one of my favorites.

The stories/tales themselves...

There were a few stand-outs among the bunch (Wild Swans, Poisoned, the one based on the one-legged soldier and the ballerina, Monkeys Paw ) but overall I wasn't super impressed with them.

Each story has its own charm... some were wicked, some were strange, sweet an
Sep 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, sff
This was good, but just good. Each fairy tale came with a new twist, but the premise was so familiar that it sometimes felt as though you were just reading the same story you've read a thousand times before. It's a fast read though and I enjoyed it. In fairy tale retellings I think I want something vastly different, rather than slightly different. For anyone who likes classic tales with tiny tweaks, this is the book for you. For anyone who wants something more, read The Bloody Chamber by Angela ...more
"Sometimes the fabric that separates us tears just enough for love to shine through. Sometimes the tear is surprisingly small."
Jan 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
Utterly unimaginative and yet somehow oozing with smugness.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
A Wild Swan: And Other Tales offered more hits than misses, which, for a collection of short stories, equals a successful reading experience for me. This was my first time reading anything by Michael Cunningham and I quite enjoyed how deep he took me inside the characters' minds, hearts and souls. I always say one thing I like retellings to do is add depth to the originals' characters -- Cunningham did exactly that! He also chose the somewhat darker path of the originals -- another favorite of m ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow, what a fast read! I read this in a single sitting.

A Wild Swan: And Other Tales modernizes eleven fairy tales. These retellings circle around love and relationships--what it means to have someone that's always by your side, that 'happily ever after,' for better and for worse. But these are not romanticized versions. The first story--"Dis. Enchant"--gives a clue as to how Cunningham approaches fairy tales--he disenchants the romanticized notion of happily ever after.

In "A Wild Swan," he show
Quite a lot to like in this somewhat uneven but still captivating collection of fractured faerie stories. Cunningham has an abrasive but oddly refreshing writing style that works with the traditional flow of most faerie tales and gives the odd and usually deeply personal knife twist he inserts with each one that much more impact.

If he strays a bit too far into the depressing and dire for my personal taste with the tale of a washed up, one winged prince in the titular "Wild Swans" and a hard livi
Romany Arrowsmith
Nov 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Insubstantial at best, insufferable at worst, boring most of all. NPR's recommendation brought me here. Why do I keep listening to them? The "fairytales subversively retold" schtick is such well-covered ground that if you're going to retread it, you have to do something extremely original, especially considering the recent plethora of garbage fairytale material being spewn out by Disney lately. And you know what, at least I can respect the almost sinister triviality of shows like Once Upon A Tim ...more
Heather L.
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
I think the art was better than the stories.
Michael Cunningham’s collection of short stories draws on more than one magical tale. The title story is, obviously a reference to the twelve swans and deals with the prince who is left with one wing. However, the collection runs far deeper than that.

Fairy tales show us what is in terms of what could have been. They teach or show truths in ways that are easier to deal with. Cunningham knows this, and he knows what drives us to read the gossip stories. His first story, “Dis. Enchant” illustrates
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want to revisit their childhood favorite fairy tales
“A Wild Swan: And Other Tales” is not a typical book by Michael Cunningham. It’s a colorful collection of fairy tales, revisited by the author, and presented to us from completely new perspectives. I was curious before starting the book if I was going to be able to recall any of the stories or characters from the fairy tales chosen by Cunningham, as the last time I remember myself reading a fairy tale was definitely more than twenty years ago. I did however find all the stories familiar and enjo ...more
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I have never read Michael Cunningham before and this brief foray into his work has not urged me to dive readily into anything else by him. That's not to say it's a bad book, A Wild Swan is dark, well written and perverts some much loved fairy tales with an admirable and reckless abandon, and I do so love a good fairy tale.

It felt as though Cunningham was striving to be just a little bit too clever, some of the metaphors are easy to identify and enjoy whilst others appear deliberately cryptic and
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Cynical, unimaginative, world-weary riffs on classic tales that fail to apprehend the genius of their source material, and so fall far below their potential. Even the titles bore. If Cunningham intended this collection as some kind of meta-level commentary on urbane inability to revisit old stories, the point is well-made but the product unenjoyable.

The only bright tale in the bunch is Ever / After.
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This collection of reworked fairy tales provides the same emotional wallop as a marathon of Pixar shorts. The storytelling here is direct, unsurprising, yet highly effective. If you're a reader looking for "fairy tales with a twist," I'd suggest something else.
2.5 stars
Most of us are safe. If you're not a delirious dream the gods are having, if your beauty doesn't trouble the constellations, nobody's going to cast a spell on you.
After this promising opening, I had high hopes for this collection of retellings of fairy tales such as The Wild Swans, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White, The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs, Rumpelstiltskin, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Beauty and the Beast, and Rapunzel.

Unfortunately, most of the retellings fel
Actual rating: 4.5/5

This is a really quick read: I managed to read it in a day. Despite the brevity, though, it's thought provoking. Cunningham teases out some of the darker elements in the stories, and some of this makes for surprising and uncomfortable reading, but it's very good.

Cunningham begins by asking who wouldn't want to mess up the perfect lives of the fairy tale heroes and heroines, because wouldn't doing that make the lives of us imperfect mortals a little easier? He reveals a hostil
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet

… if your beauty doesn’t trouble the constellations, nobody’s going to cast a spell on you. No one wants to transform you into a beast, or put you to sleep for a hundred years.

'A Wild Swan' retells a handful of classic fairy tales. It twists the old stories and allows the characters a little more in depth than the otherwise somewhat two-dimensional characters we often see in fairy tales. We follow the witch before she built her pancake house: a promiscuous, divorced alcoholic with broken drea
3.5 stars

Video review here:

I'm having a really hard time rating this book. I adored a lot of the retellings, but some of them fell a little flat.

What I do love is the grittiness that Cunningham brings to these old fairy tales, and how he sets many of them in a mashup of our contemporary world and traditional fairy tale settings. I also have always been a fan of Cunningham's style, and he does not fail to deliver in this collection. His characters are comp
Timothy Moore
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book (in both content and presentation - the Yuko Shimizu artwork is stunning), "A Wild Swan" is an enjoyable twist on the fairy tales and fables that many will know by heart. I've read a lot of reviews describing this book as something comparable to "Fractured Fairy Tales," the irreverent cartoon accompanied (if I remember correctly) with old episodes of "Rocky and Bullwinkle;" or as stories that go beyond the "happily ever after."

I disagree a bit with these descriptions - although
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
I would say that it is definitely not easy to revisit and transform characters that have long ago become like distant family to thousands of people. I would also say that it is slightly dangerous to do so because one might find their way into an endless pit of ridiculousness. Not the kind that is funny, the kind that is stupid. But this is Michael Cunningham we are talking about. He always seems to find the path to the extraordinary, even when starting from the most ordinary spot. I believe that ...more
Think we need to just appreciate how beautiful (and very simple!) the art work is on this book!


The embossing is just lovely!

So this was a collection of short stories of fairy tales but very much the fairy tales that you remember from a child!! These are certainly NOT for children! These are twisted and dark. Very enjoyable, I liked seeing a different side to the stories.

I read this for my 2016 Reading Challenge. This was for the category of choosing a book based on its front cover. So I went int
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michael Cunningham takes a feather from Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories) and updates a handful of well-known and quite iconic fairy stories.

Instead of feminism and subversion as the main (re)active ingredients, Cunningham opts for a difficult combination of modernism and satire.

This works particularly well in his rendition of ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, and less well with Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk – probably because these characters are so mythopoeic already, and therefor
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Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award & Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non-fiction book, Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown. His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of 2014. He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.
“Most of us are safe. If you're not a delirious dream the gods are having, if your beauty doesn't trouble the constellations, nobody's going to cast a spell on you.” 13 likes
“Eventually, decades later, when the king was dying, the queen gently ushered everybody out into the corridor, closed the door to the royal bedchamber, and got into bed with her husband. She started singing to him. They laughed. He was short of breath, but he could still laugh. They asked each other, Is this silly? Is this...pretentious? But they both knew that everything there was to say had been said already, over and over, across the years. And so the king, relieved, released, free to be silly, asked her to sing him a song from his childhood. He didn't need to be regal anymore, he didn't need to seem commanding or dignified, not with her. They were, in their way, dying together, and they both knew it. It wasn't happening only to him. So she started singing. They shared one last laugh - they agreed that the cat had a better voice than she did. Still, she sang him out of the world.” 7 likes
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