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Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  7,098 ratings  ·  743 reviews
Thirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances--sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old character ...more
Paperback, 228 pages
Published February 27th 1999 by HarperTeen (first published May 1997)
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Liz It is based on the story of Thumbelina!
I found this to list all of the original stories.…more
It is based on the story of Thumbelina!
I found this to list all of the original stories.

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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  7,098 ratings  ·  743 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
‘’There are some tales not for telling, whether because they are too long, too precious, too laughable, too painful, too easy to need telling or too hard to explain.’’

I feel that this quote describes the essence of Donoghue's book in a poignant and clear way. This isn’t a collection of short stories in the traditional sense of the word. It is a series of tales closely linked to each other. The stories of women who loved, yearned, who were hurt by others, who sought revenge, justice, comfort.
Frustratingly simplistic. These are easy reversals of fairy tales, and stand or fall based entirely on the reader's agreement with the reversal, rather than as stories on their own. I like the idea of lesbian friendly fairy tales - I, for one, am someone who always wanted to kiss the witch, as the title proclaims - but there must be a way of telling those stories without leeching all the power of the original. Threat is powerful - the danger and ugliness of fairy tales are why they have stayed w ...more
Stef Rozitis
Out of all the (so far 72) books I have read this year, this one was DEFINITELY my favourite, and yet I know it won't be for everyone. It's a group of short stories, familiar fairy tales rewritten to be very feminist, somewhat queer (in the broad sense) and to link together so that each story is the story of one of the characters in it who interacts with another character and at the end of each story the next character is asked to tell their story.

The magic in the story is sort of made natural a
Elle (ellexamines)
4.5 stars. This is a very creative, atmospheric book of fairy tale retellings, with some of the best writing I've ever seen. I love how three-dimensional some of the tales are, and how she got these lovely characters developed in so short a time.

The Tale of the Shoe: 5 stars. I don't think anyone can ever understand how much I love this Cinderella retelling. It's about being who you're supposed to be, or being who you truly are.
And then, because I asked, she took me to the ball. Isn't that
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
"Climbing to the witch's cave one day, / I called out, / Who were you / before you came to live here?/ And she said, / Will I tell you my own story? / It is a tale of a kiss."

Do you ever find a book and just know it's going to be everything you love in the world? Only you can't read it right away because it's not the right time, or you're not in the right mood, and you want everything to be perfect. What if you're wrong about it and it doesn't live up to your expectations? How will you find anot
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mature Young Adult Readers
Recommended to Jackikellum by: YA Course Rutgers Grad School
At first glance, Kissing the Witch appears to be a simple anthology of fairy-like tales. Upon deeper reading, it becomes clear that the separate stories are fragments—or different points of viewing one continuous thread. The way that the fragments are woven together is brilliant.

Early, the reader is aware that there are continual suggestions of tales that he/she has heard since childhood. Hints are dropped here and there; and they glimmer beneath the surface of the text. The images are repeatedl
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
"Climbing to the witch’s cave one day, I called out,
Who were you
before you came to live here?
And she said, Will I tell you my own story?
It is a tale of a kiss."

I had heard of Emma Donoghue mostly because people kept talking about her novel Room. This, however, was the first encounter I have had with her writing.

Kissing the Witch is a clever little book that takes well known fairy tales and tells them from the perspective of different women involved in the stories. Each story is then linked th
Holly Dunn
I picked this up because Kirsty Logan of The Gracekeepers said that it was very influential for her. These are fairytale retellings with a feminist twist. They’re also stacked like Russian dolls, so at the end of one retelling you’ll have the ‘villain’ tell their backstory, and the witch of one tale becomes the heroine of the next. Your favourite fairy tale will probably be in here. There’s a Little Mermaid retelling which was probably my favourite.
J.G. Keely
Donoghue combines self-righteous messages with blatantly didactic interior monologues which can only appeal to those already believing everything she says. She spurs no thought which was not already there, and in writing a book which never aspired to art, has done what your average writer does: increase the general volume of words in print, and nothing more. A string of random monkey-typed characters would have aided mankind as well.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If there's one thing I love more than fairytale retellings, it is a bunch of gorgeously written fairytale retellings with a splash of gay and a feminist flair to it, that kicks all the mothereffing tropes right in their faces. ...more
Liz Janet
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be clever.

“Change for your own sake, if you must, not for what you imagine another will ask of you.”

These are considered fairytale re-tellings with a feminist twist, but the best part is that they are all connected as a woman asks the other who they were "before", and together they make a novel that leaves you begging for more.

They were girls, princesses, innocent or not so, all before they became witches, stepmothers, crones. These sto
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kissing the Witch is a quirky collection with the sub-title 'Old Tales in New Skins' - it contains thirteen re-imagined fairy tales by Irish writer Emma Donoghue. Donoghue's publishing credits include a non-fiction book on lesbian culture, and a lesbian sensibility is evident in this collection. Gay readers should especially enjoy this twist on some of the traditional 'boy meets girl' fairy tales.

As a long-time student and lover of traditional stories, I found Kissing the Witch beautifully craft
I'm on a Emma Donoghue kick atm. Reading two of her books at the same time. I wouldn't normally do that but fairy tales are always easy to read on the side.

Kissing the Witch was Donoghue's first story collection, a sequence of thirteen re-imagined fairytales, inspired by traditional European sources (Brothers Grimm, Perrault, Hans Anderson). I'm sure you will recognize many of your favorite fairy tales.

I love how all the stories were connected. The author says about this:

"One aspect of Kissing t
Mmm... A complete failure when it comes to grabbing and maintaining my attention, and I can't give even bonus points for creativity because, although the author does try, she didn't really surprise me with any of the retellings here. ...more
Interesting that I really like this author’s work, but this was published nearly 20 years ago and she has obviously improved over time! These were ok but not terribly memorable.
Jul 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the Orphan's Tales, Patricia McKillip
The book begins with "The Tale of the Shoe," told by Cinderella. Her fairy godmother gives her everything she needs to dance with a prince--but in the end, she realizes she'd rather have the fairy godmother. At Cinderella's urging, the godmother tells her own story, which prompts the next story, and so on. Each short tale is inspired by a fairy tale; each is told by a woman (although some have become birds and horses and witches since then). Some are more revolutionary than ohers: Hansel and Gre ...more
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fairytales
I've wanted to read this for ages, so when I had insomnia last night seemed like a good time. This book is a series of interlinked, usually traditional, fairytales, featuring the voices of women trapped within them -- sometimes with lesbian relationships, sometimes just (just!) the complicated relationships between women.

For me, it felt a little flimsy, maybe not quite as magical as I'd hoped, but overall it was enjoyable. Mostly, I wished it was longer, that there was more of it. I think I enj
Scarllet ✦ iamlitandwit
Kissing the Witch is absolutely beautiful. You can't go wrong with haunting language and such bewitching storytelling befitting a fairy tale storybook. It helps that these retellings are wonderfully sapphic wink wink. So many of these are women taking charge of their destinies, of their fates, of their bodies. I also thought that connecting every tale through the "Will I tell you my own story?" bit was a nice way to intertwine these women like what a pleasure!!

My independent ratings for each tal
Mrs. Elaine
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Considering I read this in one sitting I definetly have to rate this a solid 4 stars. I haven't read many short stories. I believe Neil Gaimans Fragile Things makes up the entire list of short story collections I have read in their entirety. I'm not a huge fan of fairy tales and I really only enjoy the story of Beauty and the Beast. I believe that a reader who is very familiar with fairy tale lore will receive even greater enjoyment from this book then I did.

I did enjoy each story equally and di
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
At first, I felt like this book was appealing but super derivative. Inspired by some of the same feminist motives as Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Donoghue puts a new twist on familiar fairy tales. While her lyrical narration and playful recharacterization were immediately appealing, I found the sameness of the revisions somewhat pat. Yes, it always turns out that the evil witch is just a reviled woman; patriarchal culture too often condemns women for being alone, unattra ...more
em. rose
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
adhgakgf this was everything i hoped it would be. written in a classical fairytale style but minus the magic of the untouchable and adding the magic of the reachable. beautiful, and dark, with princesses, witches, spinsters, and thieves galore.
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: feminists
Donoghue's feminist retellings of fairy tales is not as original as it would have been when first published, but the beauty and power of her prose is undiminished. The short first-person accounts flow fluidly (sometimes more fluidly than logically) from one to the next, connected by overlapping characters, a technique that elides the traditional good/evil dichotomy of fairy tales. However, readers should resist the tidal pull of the transitions and take a couple of breaks rather than reading str ...more
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women, 2016
A solid 3.75—I guess I was expecting more stories about women loving women.
certainly pleasant, but not as refreshing as I thought it would be. only the last two stories were standouts.
Rachel Jorquera
YES - this is such an amazing... AMAZING read.
Yaiza Canopoli
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt-recs
Review coming soon!
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A collection of 13 short stories, Kissing the Witch takes fairy tales (many of them easily recognizable) and revises them: poetic and magical, they take a fresh look at their stories and protagonists, instilling feminine independence, wisdom, and romance missing in the original tales. The narrative that ties the stories together is stretched thin, but everything else about the book is wonderful: it's a strong, uniform collection which is beautiful, liberating, and quietly—yet strongly—revolution ...more
Reread in 2020.
Bumping this up to 5 stars, because this book has some of my favourite things:
- fairy tale retellings that are actual retellings. Donoghue takes tired old tropes and shakes them up until they are refreshing. I think her book may be one of the only books dealing with fairy tales that I have read that truly does something original (the only other one I can think of right now is Folk by Zoe Gilbert, though Donoghue does subvert the tropes more than she does, I think).
-gaaaaaay. All
Allison Floyd
There was nothing wrong with this book. I blame my recent Francesca Lia Block immersion for my lack of staying power with this one. From the three tales I read, this struck me as Francesca Lia Block with a lesbian feminist bent, i.e. beautifully written, but a lot more style than substance. Which is all very well, and I realize that these are fairytale retellings, and fairytales deal more in types than characters, et cetera. Again, had I not glutted myself on FLB (and Angela Carter) this summer, ...more
I really enjoyed this! It was an easy, quick read, but the writing didn't suffer for that. It was my kind of dark fairy tales (not that dark, but not happy, fluffy unicorns), with feminist subversion that was so great to see! I would highly recommend this for those who are fans of fairy tales and want a fresh palate cleanser of a book. ...more
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The Feminist Orch...: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue 4 234 Mar 23, 2017 01:47PM  
500 Great Books B...: Kissing the Witch - Emma Donoghue - Stef 1 7 Sep 04, 2015 12:17PM  
Fairy Tales Eclectic: Kissing the Witch 2 9 Aug 12, 2014 07:48PM  
Thoughts on this book. 11 35 Jul 30, 2014 11:38AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: #47 Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue 1 6 May 07, 2014 06:51PM  
Endicott Mythic F...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Kissing the Witch - who's reading? 19 25 Aug 18, 2013 09:51AM  

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Grew up in Ireland, 20s in England doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature, since then in Canada. Best known for my novel, film and play ROOM, also other contemporary and historical novels and short stories, non-fiction, theatre and middle-grade novels.

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