Three Beautiful Books
Recently, quite by chance, I've read three books which have all taken inspiration from fairy tales. They are all quite different but each is wonderful in its own way.
Tender Morsels, by the incomparable Margo Lanagan, is a dark, beautiful and deeply emotional tale, based partly on the story of Snow White and Rose Red. Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl is pitched for slightly younger readers, and combines lots of familiar elements - magical gifts, imposters, a dispossessed princess who must live in poverty for a time to earn her rightful inheritance - in a fresh and lovely way. I haven't actually finished I, Coriander by Sally Gardner yet, but I'm loving it. Coriander moves between seventeenth century London and the fairy world; the language is rich and evocative, the images beautiful and surprising. In fact, the same could be said for all three books.
The power of fairy tales seems to be that they reach deep inside us, to the most shadowy parts of ourselves, almost beyond memory, beyond story, beyond words. We know these stories so well, even when we don't think we remember them at all. When we read of speaking animals, favours to strangers repaid a thousand-fold, silver shoes, dark forests, magical embroidery, the wronged child who must fight for what's hers, something inside us chimes like a bell, chimes with satisfaction. The patterns unfold as they should, and when they are in the hands of gifted writers like these, they are also endlessly astonishing, turning the old stories inside out and back to front, so we see things we'd never seen before. Unexpected fears and delights wink out at us like the facets of a diamond turned to the light. And these books are all diamonds.