well, not exactly. What we have here are two retellings of classic fairy tales: Charles Perrault’s deeply upsetting Donkeyskin (recently reviewed by our very own BlackRaven) and Hans Christian Andersen’s also unsettling The Little Mermaid. Both of these entries are picks for our upcoming #cannonbookclub event- and I’ll be discussing Deerskin further during our Zoom- but in the meantime, let these two help you choose your pick(s)! Also- both of these tales of girls on the cusp of womanhood have been reclaimed and retold by women. Hooray!
Bingo Category: Home
Deerskin – Robin McKinley 3/5
Be warned: Deerskin and, to a slightly lesser extent, Donkeyskin, feature some truly vile behavior at and from the hands of men. Both feature a King, maddened at the death of his beautiful Queen, who chooses that his next wife will be his teenage daughter. YIKES. In Donkeyskin, she is helped by a fairy godmother. In Deerskin, our princess has the love and guardianship of an incredible hound, but she is unable to escape the madness of the King until it is much. too. late. This re-telling features a visceral rape scene, as well as many other instances of mortal and animal peril. Princess Lissla Lissar, reborn post-trauma as the titular Deerskin, is a princess who saves herself. Sure, there’s magic, kindly farm folks, gentle princes, a cavalcade of loyal dogs, and intervention by a potential goddess, but Deerskin is her own person. She may not know who that person is, as she has been dealt the hand of post-traumatic-amnesia, but she is a person through and through. A capable and driven person voiced with clarity and might. McKinley pays close attention to the relationship between humans and their pets, and also fills the story with the ins and outs of hound rearing, caring, and training. The story meanders a bit- it could stand to lose a good 100 pages- but if you choose to listen to it (which I suggest you do), Xe Sands does a lovely job with the audio version. Should you hope to cloak yourself in Deerskin before our discussion weekend, both the audio and the ebook are currently available on Scribd. Although I prefer the retellings by Angela Carter and Emma Donoghue, this novel can stand alone with pride.
I’ve chosen to cross out Home with this entry, as Deerskin escapes from, runs to, finds another, and reclaims what it means to be “home” several times throughout this tale. If you are looking to play Bingo, you could also use Deerskin for Fauna, Book Club, The Wilds, Mythic, or Travel.
Bingo Category: Book Club
Sea Witch – Sarah Henning 3.5/5
So- this isn’t quite a spoiler, as it is written directly on the cover, but I listened to the book without looking at the cover until I had finished, so I had my head underwater (ha!) in regards to this story being an…
stop reading here if you want to go in blind…
…I recommend stopping, as I don’t know as if I would have read this had I known the (obvious) truth…
…ok, it’s your tail to trade for legs, bud!
Origin! Story! For! Ursula!
If I had seen the cover first, this would have been clear: there are tentacles a-plenty and the tagline reads “Before she took that mermaid’s voice, she gave up her own heart”.
I really enjoyed this one! A lot of the traditional creepiness of The Little Mermaid floats to the surface, and allusions to the classic Disney interpretation wash ashore as well. The tale is firmly set in Denmark, and the rich history of both seafaring and witchcraft is present on nearly every page.
Three children are bound together from early childhood: A Prince, a noble, and a nobody. They are the greatest and closest of friends, until Anna drowns during a childish game. Years later, a girl looking just like Anna arrives on land without any memory of this world, claiming to be a mermaid. She is here after saving Prince Nik from drowning- much like our old Ariel- and she has bound herself to Evie, the girl who was her best friend…and the girl whose mother was a witch. The girl whose aunt is still a witch. The girl who holds the prince’s heart, but her heart aches for is dashing cousin, Iker. So much of the traditional story plays out, and so in the dark was I, that I couldn’t even spot a villain until very late in the story. I found this retelling truly delightful, and I am quite glad that I went into it blind. The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite fairy tales AND Disney movies, and I am a sucker for mermaid-related…anything, really. I also found the flirtation between Evie and Iker to be truly steamy, especially for a YA novel!
I used this entry to fufil the Bookclub box, but one could easily select The Wilds, Mythic, or Travel.