Sarah's Reviews > Tender Morsels

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
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's review
Sep 10, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: starred
Recommended to Sarah by: Monica
Read in October, 2008

Once upon a time, the skeleton of this story was called Snow-White and Rose-Red. Like all fairy tales, it left much unexplained. Too much. Well, Margo Lanagan took those bones and added muscle and guts, bracing the loose joints of the plot with her characters' emotions, motivations, and histories. That's the secret of successful retellings: fleshing out the gaps that relied almost entirely on the readers' willful ignorance or suspension of belief, yet still leaving room for the existence of magic. And Lanagan knows how to handle magic delicately enough to make it believable: Tender Morsels revolves around magical doings, but never degrades enchantment to the level of coincidence. The plot must bend to fit the whims of the magic, and never, ever the reverse. Yet the setting is so rich that it all feels impossibly real.

And the characters -- hoo, the characters. They are vivid, passionate, flawed, sometimes randy (but never gratuitous), and fiercely devoted to their hearts' desires. Desires tangled with magic, though, turn out to have more power than any one of them have bargained for.

It's been almost a week and I am still basking and soaking in this story. It is deep, thick, and heavy, but not in the ways that makes reading tiresome. It isn't a book you finish and set aside -- you surface from it and wait for it to roll off you. (I know, I know -- I'm going all purple and gushy. Plus I've overshot my adjective quota without ever managing to work in "visceral." Crap.)

An about face: I am somewhat loathe to admit this is not a book for everyone. Not by a long shot. The switching points of view, the nature of the abuse Liga weathers, and the spattering of old world Britishy-Irishy dialect each have the potential to deter a number of readers.

However, if you loved the themes of sweetness and brutality in The Giver, the robust characters and setting of The Moorchild, and the emotional tone of Donna Jo Napoli's fairy tale-based novels, I'd lay odds you'll be content to envelop yourself for a few days in Tender Morsels. It is quite possibly THE best reading experience I've had so far this year.
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Reading Progress

10/22/2008 page 242
10/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Sarah It's killer. Not for everyone - not by a long shot - but WOW.

message 2: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura See, the other reviews I've read of this book kind of put me off to it. But your review has me intrigued, particularly since I loved "The Giver" and I'm obsessed with Donna Jo Napoli. You mentioned abuse in your review - how brutal is it? I just read "Living Dead Girl" a couple weeks ago and I've never had a book make me physically sick before...I'm so done with disturbing abuse books for 2008. What I would love is something engrossing, escapist, and lush to finish out my year - it sounds like this fits the bill?

I do looooove that cover. It's positively sumptuous.

message 3: by Lucy (new)

Lucy I wanted to read this before, but now I really want to read it. I'm a sucker for retold fairy tales that fill in the gaps, and Snow White and Rose Red has always been a cracktastic favorite of mine.

Sarah This book had a certain level of intensity -- until I read Living Dead Girl and discovered what "intense" really means. This is not an easy or a casual read, but in terms of the abuse I believe you'll find it more palatable than LDG. The creep-out factor is also lower, I think because Liga's abuse is more a matter of convenience and proximity than that icky pseudo-relationship Ray cultivates with 'Alice' in LDG. Also, Liga's abuse is the catalyst for the plot, but it isn't the focus. It stays relevant, but fades into the background.

message 5: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Phew! That's a relief!

Moving this up to near-the-top of my "To-Read" pile! 8-)

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