I read Shibuyama’s review of The Merry Spinster before I got into the book and braced myself for horror. I don’t like horror (I get nightmares easily, apparently) but I’d heard good things and still wanted to read it. This was a case of bracing myself and then it really not being as bad as I was thinking so yay! Played the expectations game and won.
It helped that the book opens with a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, the OG little mermaid which is weirdly a story I grew up with. My dad had a book of short stories about the sea and I had loved the Disney movie so when I found one that was the little mermaid I was so excited and then whoopsie? This was actually hilariously not as dark as the one I started reading when I was seven which really helped set the overall tone for me in this book.
The darkest and most disturbing of all these stories was far and away the story of Mr. Toad being gaslit continually by the other forest creatures. That one was tough to read.
Overall, I took a kind of dark glee in reading this book. These are all stories you know (I definitely had a picture book about the Seven Swans, wait, how dark was my childhood?!) that Ortberg has taken her own twist on, often for the better. I also appreciated reading something that was short stories, where I could read it a chapter at a time and not lose a plot thread. I do recommend this one, but maybe read it with the lights on.