Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Published March 2018 by Holt, Henry and Company
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review, through Netgalley
Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.
Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.
Bed time will never be the same.
This is one of those "right books at the right time" books, coming as it did for me on the heels of a monster historical fiction book. Familiar stories that harken back to the darkness most of these stories originated from, Ortberg takes on fairly tales, folk tales, children's stories, and myths.
In Ortberg's hands, the Little Mermaid is no fawning girl just yearning to "where the people are;" Beauty isn't much of a beauty and the Beast truly is a beast; and the Velveteen Rabbit is, well, sort of evil. There's a whole lot of gender bending going on here - females are husbands (or wives, if they want to be) and female names and daughters turn out to be male. Ortberg explores obligation and the ways it can be abused in many of the tales.
As a lover of fairy tales, I really enjoyed the retellings of some of my favorite. But my favorite tale in this collection was "The Rabbit," in which Ortberg plays on the original premise of the children's classic The Velveteen Rabbit, exploring what that stuffed rabbit might be capable of if it truly imagined becoming real. Not for your kiddos!
I downloaded this one from Netgalley, but I may just have to buy a copy to have so I can read it again! Some of you may know Ortberg from The Toast - clearly something else I need to check out. Off to do that now!