Friday, August 26, 2011

Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins
Emma Donoghue
Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-440772-1
Source: Library (inter-library loan from Grande Prairie Public Library)

Kissing the Witch is the third book that I've read by Donoghue in the last 12 months. In January I read Slammerkin and last September I read Room. I loved all three.

I read Kissing the Witch for a book group. I'd known about the book from checking out Donoghue's oeuvre, but fairy tales aren't my cup of tea so I hadn't been tempted to read it. Even as a kid I didn't get into them all that much. As an adult one of my aunts bought me a book of fairy tales re-told with a feminist edge. They were funny, at the time, but unmemorable.

Emma Donoghue's tales, on the other hand, will stick with me for a while. She doesn't just re-tell or re-package these fairy tales and characters, she completely re-visions them. She shows the back-story to how some of the classic characters got to be where they are and how they are (evil stepmother, reclusive witch, Rapunzel, etc) and has produced an empowering, yet not overwhelming group of 13 interconnected tales that are entertaining and at times funny, but also serious and instructive. And they're so beautifully & tightly written that I've already re-read some of them for the sheer enjoyment of seeing how Donoghue casts her spell as a writer. I'm putting this one on my wish list.

One of my favorites is "The Tale of The Voice." Its a cautionary tale of being careful about what you ask for, the dangers of obsession, and the consequences of not valuing oneself. The beauty of this tale is that the woman who throws herself over for a man she's after is not a young, inexperienced girl, but a grown women who'd "already ripped out my first gray hair" (185). She gets the man she thinks she's in love with, but like so many women in real life, she looses her voice.

The Grande Prairie Library shelves Kissing the Witch in the young adult section, but this is a book for women and men of all ages. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy fairy tales and fantasy, short stories, and uplifting but not simplistic tales. Its a quick, highly satisfying read.

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