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The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  3,054 ratings  ·  234 reviews
The magnificent title story of this collection of fairy tales for adults describes the strange and uncanny relationship between its extravagantly intelligent heroine--a world renowned scholar of the art of story-telling--and the marvelous being that lives in a mysterious bottle, found in a dusty shop in an Istanbul bazaar. As A.S. Byatt renders this relationship with a pow ...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published October 27th 1998 by Vintage International (first published 1994)
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Hannah Greendale
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Four short stories precede The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, and they are fairy tale works of wonder with glittering language and bewitching imagery. "Dragons' Breath," in particular, reads as if it were penned by Tolkien.

The titular story comprises the second half of the book, a novella that implements such a significant shift in tone and craft as to make the collection feel incongruous. The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye is stuffy and dry by comparison. At one point, it reads like a contend
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading this reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend recently about the films of Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch, how I love their artistic sensibilities but yearn in vain for, as my friend said, an intersectional lens. I love these stories but I can't put away my ideological discomfort about them. I get the impression they are not meant to be read ideologically, but we already know what the absence of an ideology amounts to... Anyway they are lovely, very graceful and clever, but a litt ...more
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who loved to read fairy-tales at the right age and every now and then misses reading some.
This volume has 5 stories: first 2 I didn't read anymore as they were inserted in Possession (and although I don't remember exactly how to grade them, I remember what they were about), a short story about the deeds of an elder sister from a family with 3 daughters, a short story about the breath of a dragon and a story occupying more than half of the volume ( The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye ).

The story from the title is amazingly good. It is only one story but it contains several other stor
I fell in love with the work of A. S. Byatt after reading her story "The Story of the Eldest Princess". I love fairy tales, but I also am the eldest child in my family and always felt a little slighted because in most fairy tales the older children fail. Even after I learned why that was, it still got tiresome. It was refreshing to read a story that approached fairy tales from the viewpoint of an eldest child who knows she is caught in the tale and what that means. It's a wonderful story for any ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
...Because sometimes, a completely modern fairytale, so-called, just won't do.

I still have sitting on my bedside table Possession, by Byatt. It is sitting there all forlorn, halfway-read with a growth which stagnated a couple of months back, when I found I just couldn't read another page at that moment. And still I haven't reached the next moment that will make me pick up the book and continue reading it.

Possession is one of those books that's like very dark, incredibly rich chocolate brownies.
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think I have a new author to add to my quiver of favorites. This is the second book by Byatt I have read, and both have been spectacular!
Byatt’s style is poetic, lyric and beautiful. The words process like an ancient tapestry telling an epic story. Byatt’s sentences are often long and contain many phrases, but rarely do they seem clumsy or hard to follow. Instead the phrases march out a beat that leads to a clear concise thought. There is an echo of haunting in the writing as well, a note of
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are five short stories in this book. The first four are just that, short, but the last one which gives the name of this book is quite lengthy.

The Glass Coffin is about a tailor who goes out into the world to find his luck. He meets a little grey man who gives him shelter for the night in exchange for helping with house chores. The tailor cooks, feeds the animals who also live in the house, and in return for his good work and kindness, gets to choose one gift out of the three the little gre
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I always imagined this sort of thing must exist. A fairly large subset of bibliophiles love fairy tales for their own sake, and plenty of us are self-conscious of narrative tropes and seek stories that seem mature and emotionally complex. Perhaps there are a lot of stories like these - fairy tale retellings are kind of a thing these days, from Grendel to The Bloody Chamber to Wicked, not to mention any of the TV schlock. In the hands of lesser writers, the concept is too wry and knowing and on-t ...more
Althea Ann
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
I read this for the Mythic Fiction book group here on Goodreads, but never got around to going and posting about it over there...

A collection of 5 stories - 4 very short, and one novella-length (the title story). The first 4 stories were excellent - but 4.5 stars for the first half of the book, and 2 stars for the second half (actually, it's a little more than half) averages out to 3.

The Glass Coffin -
A humble tailor granted magical gifts, a sleeping princess, an enchanted prince, an evil magic
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I just encountered Byatt for the first time, and despite her jaundiced view of the Harry Potter books, I have to say she's really a great read. This book contains four retellings or reimaginings of traditional fairy tales and a more realistic novella about a middle-aged professor who encounters the titular djinn on a trip to Turkey. The literary snob in me really appreciates the fact that she's a master wordsmith who also treats fairy tales seriously, but what really won me over was "The Story o ...more
Destiny Dawn Long
I liked the self-awareness of the stories in this volume--how the characters were familiar with fairy tales, and that informed their actions and decisions in some way. In particular, I enjoyed "The Glass Coffin," "The Story of the Eldest Princess," and the title story for this reason. The emphasis on the act of storytelling gave me a lot to ponder. Also, I love that the title story uses the frame narrative structure--stories being told within the story--but without the neccesity of The Arabian N ...more
For some reason, Polish translation of this collection only contains three stories out of five - I assume the two missing ones, "The Glass Coffin" and "Gode's Story", are extracts from Possession. I found "Tale of the Eldest Princess" very amusing, very self-aware and metatextual, liked the title story, and found "Dragon's Breath" downright depressing. On the whole, I'd say the collection is varied, accidental and uneven, but worth reading if you like Byatt (or Carter, or Gaiman...) - it's a rea ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
There's no doubt about Byatt's literary erudition and brilliance; her stories were deftly and eloquently penned without venturing into kid's section, as many fantasy stories end up. I guess I would appreciate this compilation of short stories better had I not just finished her other book, Possession. I'll definitely come back to this collection of fantasy stories one day in a less exhausted frame of mind.
This was lovely - Byatt puts together a collection of fairy tale retellings, and they're all lovely, as you would expect. The final fairy tale is almost novella length, and it's about narratologist who opens a bottle with a djinn inside.

The prose is gorgeous, and the stories are densely layered with meaning and imagery. I read this during a week where I didn't have a ton of mental energy, and even just reading these on a surface level without stopping to dig in was very enjoyable.

If you like Bya
Feb 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Favourite quote

She had a phrase for the subtle pleasures of solitary air travel. She spoke it to herself like a charm as the great silver craft detached itself from its umbilical tube at Heathrow, waddled like an albatross across the tarmac and went up, up through grey curtains of English rain.

This collection of short stories is riddled with poetic verses and, sometimes not so straightforward explanations (view spoiler)
Feb 27, 2013 marked it as to-read
I recommend this book on the strength of two short stories, "The Glass Coffin" and "The Story of the Eldest Princess." Both could be called "Fractured Fairytales," as they are largely in the form of traditional fairy tales, but the author's sensibility twists them into a kind of commentary on fairy tales. What makes them great, however, is the beauty of her language. It's wonderful and voluptuous. I like to read it out loud for fun.
Mark Lisac
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous writing drifting back and forth across the border of reality and dreamlands. The stories in this collection — the title story is novella length — can be read as simple pleasures or as reflections on the world around us. While there seems to be intent in most of this work, the stories can also function as glistening objets d'art, much like the artistically formed glass globes in the title story; the effect is enhanced by the unusual attention to detail in printing and design.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Of the five stories in The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye I enjoyed "The Story of the Eldest Princess" and "The Glass Coffin" the most. However, the other three were just okay.
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
This will make you remember how beautiful fairy tales are.

Cerys Weston (Library of Cerys)
I didnt enjoy this entire book, but the titular story - The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye - is INCREDIBLE and definitely made the book as a whole worth reading.
Esther King
Jul 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is very much hit and miss, with some stories that read like they popped out of a Grimm’s Faerie Stories compilation, and others that tried really hard to be modern day fantasy but to the point they were lost to the prose. I think of all of them, the first was probably my favourite and Dragon’s Breath my least favourite from them all.

The characters are bare, but you want that in a faerie tale, otherwise it doesn’t bear the charm of the genre- and that’s perhaps where the title story st
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Byatt is a remarkable writer. I have always loved fairy tales and she seems to love them also. This volume is linked with Possession and it completes it in my view. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish Byatt as the writer from Christal, her Possession protagonist, who was the “writer” of many stories and poems including one in this collection. Byatt’s “Russian doll” technique of stories within stories is a big part of the Djiin story, which is my favorite in this book.
Anne Oftedahl
Read for my Fairy Tale Fictions module

"The Glass Coffin" read for 08.02.19
There's not really much to expect considering how horrible the original fairy tale is, but I think Byatt did a good job in making it slightly more interesting. It's still kinda boring, though.

"Gode's Story" read for 15.02.19
This had me confused... There is a lot of reading between the lines necessary, but the way it was written is really poetic and just generally fairytale-esque

"The Eldest Princess" read for 15.02.19
I fuck
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Beth by: GoodReads Recommendations
This is a collection of five beautiful short stories.

"The Glass Coffin," first published in Byatt's novel Possession, is a pretty straightforward fairytale about a tailor who has to search for the lock that matches a glass key. 2 stars.

"Gode's Story," also from Possession, is a disturbing love story. It's hard to say much about this without spoilers, but it's excellent. 4 stars.

"The Story of the Eldest Princess" takes place in a land where the sky has started to turn different colors, and the pr
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
A lovely collection of fairy tales. My favorite was "Gode's Story." The title story spent a lot of time establishing its frame tale structure, but when it finally got to the Djinn's stories, I was very interested. Also loved the following quotes from that novella:

"Oh the bliss, said Gillian to herself as she extended her sad body along the green rolls of swaying liquid and felt it vanish, felt her blood and nerves become pure energy, moved forward with a ripple like a swimming serpent. Little wa
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A.S. Byatt loves to nest stories inside stories. Often, the inner stories are as compelling as the overall story. She’s especially good at weaving fantasy stories and fairy tales into her fictional narrative.

This collects “The Glass Coffin” and “Gode’s Story” from Possession. “Dragons’ Breath” was originally written to be read aloud during a “project for Sarajevo.” “The Eldest Princess” was originally written for the short story collection Caught In A Story.

“The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye”
"The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" is the second book by A.S. Byatt I've read this year. I enjoyed it as much as "The Children's Book," which means I hope to read her masterwork "Possession" in the near future.

"Djinn" is a collection of stories -- four short stories and the title story, which is novella length. They are fairy tales with a twist and most are lovely. I thought the title story was the weakest -- it wanders a lot before getting around to the interesting bits. By far, the strongest
I read this as part of a reading challenge. The subtitle to this is “A Collection of Five Fairy Stories”. This is not something I would have chosen without the challenge since I prefer novels to short stories. However, the stories are not all the same length. The last one, from which the collection gets its title, is what I would consider to be more of a novella rather than a short story.

The first four stories were just o.k. for me. They were interesting, but I didn’t think they were particular
Mary Beth
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what rating to give this. It is a collection of fairy tales and a novella. The fairy tales were amazing. I usually hate modern fairy tales because they're usually told with too much self-consciousness of the "we know better than that because we're sophisticated moderns" sort, written in a spirit of irony or political correctness. These fairy tales however have a simple, natural beauty and are very respectful of the fairy tale tradition. I really forgot that I was reading modern tale ...more
Jun 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finding an immaculate copy of the first edition in a London used bookstore - reviewing slip hidden between the pages - I decided to indulge in reading more of Byatt's inventive and refreshing "fairy stories," tales with more than a nodding familiarity to conventions Propp would have argued for, but told with wonderful humour and sensitivity. My chance was amply rewarded: the stories in this little volume are a mix of short and long, serious and light-hearted. I particularly liked the closing tal ...more
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more

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