Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

edited by: kate bernheimer

pages : [paperback] 576

summary :

The fairy tale lives again in this book of forty new stories by some of the biggest names in contemporary fiction.

Neil Gaiman, “Orange”

Aimee Bender, “The Color Master”

Joyce Carol Oates, “Blue-bearded Lover”

Michael Cunningham, “The Wild Swans”

These and more than thirty other stories by Francine Prose, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, Lydia Millet, and many other extraordinary writers make up this thrilling celebration of fairy tales—the ultimate literary costume party.

Spinning houses and talking birds. Whispered secrets and borrowed hope. Here are new stories sewn from old skins, gathered by visionary editor Kate Bernheimer and inspired by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico.

Fairy tales are our oldest literary tradition, and yet they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature. This exhilarating collection restores their place in the literary canon.

review :

This collection of fairy tales fully consumed me as I read through the book.

With a plethora of contemporary authors adding their retold fairy tales to this anthology, there’s definitely a story in here for anyone. While I’m not sure that all will enjoy every story (that’s a rare thing, to really love every installment in a collection like this) there are so many different styles present and takes on the well-known tales that there’s a good thing for anyone here.

I particularly enjoyed (and expected to love) Neil Gaiman’s ‘Orange’. He’s one of the few authors I immediately recognized by name from the list of those who contributed to this work–for others, I know their stories better than their names.

Because I had to read this for school, I didn’t have as much time to sit and think on each story as I would have preferred to do, should I have read this collection in my free time. I could spend hours on each one, to be frank, going on about what did or didn’t work for me, what I loved about the individual writing styles and what I detested about the fairy tales chosen to be retold. Unfortunately, not having the time for that kind of involvement, I was left instead with vague impressions of the stories I’d read one after the other. So if you happen to read this anthology, I would recommend taking the time to enjoy it, rather than speeding through it. Not only is it a fairly hefty volume, the text inside is so dense with wonder and symbolism that you simply need to focus on it rather than the end goal of finishing the book.

I loved how some of these stories are influenced by more remote and less well-known tales, some more gruesome or heartbreaking than others. While I do love my Americanized classics, there are still so many folk tales and mythologies out there left to be explored and understood by the masses so I was ecstatic (though not particularly surprised, judging by the fabulous array of authors) to see the variety there!

I would highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in fairy tales, modern writing, and short stories. I think that this is something I’ll return to again, to reread favorite stories and linger over those I still need to puzzle out.

4/5 stars

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