A tale of enchantment indeed.
This was a christmas gift from my mother, for which I’m almost certain she used the ‘books like this’ feature on amazon, since the titles that accompanied it were similar to my usual fantastical reading habits. I’ll confess, the cover and the lack of back cover blurb meant I didn’t read it until this week, something which I hugely regret. Since the book opens on a Christmas day it would have been entirely appropriate, ah well we live and learn.
The feel of this book really reminded me of the Netflix series ‘The OA’, which is an entirely useless analogy if you haven’t seen the series or read the book but there we are. What I mean is there is the constant doubt of both the reader and the characters in the book that the story of another character, in this case Tara (a girl who turns up after having been missing for 20 years claiming to have been stolen by the fairies), is in any way true. The way Joyce crafts entirely plausible explanations for the girl’s story while at the same time rendering them entirely impossible leaves you reeling and confused by the last 20 pages or so.
But that confusion isn’t born out of poorly thought out plot ideas, on the contrary that chaos and doubt is clearly a deliberate choice on the part of Joyce (hey a rhyme). It’s a really quite excellent exploration of how modern people would respond to someone claiming they had been stolen by the fae. The inclusion of aspects from the case of Bridget Cleary (a woman who was murdered due to the fact that her husband claimed she was a changeling in 1895) is perhaps an allusion to this change in mentality. Where in the past they may have seen sickness as magic, in the modern world would we choose to see magic as sickness?
What I found really compelling were the different characters used by Joyce to convey the story, not only do we hear from Tara and her psychologist but also her brother, her ex boyfriend and her nephew. Tara isn’t always the centre of their monologues but it is her homecoming that triggers many of their actions and thoughts. It was fascinating to skip about through the different mindsets and Joyce does a wonderful job of capturing voice in the written word.
What I will warn of is that this is definitely not for those opposed to sexual content. It isn’t chock full of sex scenes but there is a lot referenced. Not that it’s likely, but if you don’t like swearing you also might want to stay away.
But if you’re willing to push past, or embrace, those elements I think you’ll find this a really compelling read. The title at first confused me but now that I’ve finished it I think it’s very apt, this isn’t a tale of princesses, frogs or wolves, rather it’s a story that has elements of a fairy tale but also captures something far greater, something simultaneously enchanting and sinister. It leaves you almost wanting to re-read it, but I think I’ll let my first impressions settle in my brain beforehand.