Saturday, 1 October 2016

Book Review: Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned by Gretchen Schultz

Title: Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned
Author: Gretchen Schultz
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: 18 October 2016
 
Pages: 290
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Fantasy
Source: ARC via NetGalley


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The wolf is tricked by Red Riding Hood into strangling her grandmother and is subsequently arrested. Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella do not live happily ever after. And the fairies are saucy, angry, and capricious. "Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned" collects thirty-six tales, many newly translated, by writers associated with the decadent literary movement, which flourished in France in the late nineteenth century. Written by such creative luminaries as Charles Baudelaire, Anatole France, and Guillaume Apollinaire, these enchanting yet troubling stories reflect the concerns and fascinations of a time of great political, social, and cultural change. Recasting well-known favorites from classic French fairy tales, as well as Arthurian legends and English and German tales, the updated interpretations in this collection allow for more perverse settings and disillusioned perspectives--a trademark style and ethos of the decadent tradition.

In these stories, characters puncture the optimism of the naive, talismans don't work, and the most deserving don't always get the best rewards. The fairies are commonly victims of modern cynicism and technological advancement, but just as often are dangerous creatures corrupted by contemporary society. The collection underlines such decadent themes as the decline of civilization, the degeneration of magic and the unreal, gender confusion, and the incursion of the industrial. The volume editors provide an informative introduction, biographical notes for each author, and explanatory notes throughout.

Subverting the conventions of the traditional fairy tale, these old tales made new will entertain and startle even the most disenchanted readers.
(Goodreads Synopsis)



Fairy Tales for the Disillusioned is an entertaining read that transforms familiar stories and shows them in a new light. Some of my personal favourites included one story in which fairy tale villains make a case for their innocence, and another in which Bluebeard is shown to be the victim of a series of awful wives. Although certain stories appealed to me more than others, their diversity means there should be something to please everyone. Recommended for readers who enjoy a little twist to their fairy tales, and also to those interested in literary history and the French Decadent period.

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