My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Source: Uncorrected proof courtesy of publisher
In a fairytale, the only good mother is six feet under. All the others are bad news.
By this part of the blurb alone, it should be pretty obvious what we’re getting here. None of that Disney fairy tales with an Happy Ever Afters. By the last line of the Prologue; ”…why it is, in fairy tales, that the Good Mother is always dead.”, I questioned the timing of my reading this book on motherhood (FYI, am expecting my second baby in about 6 weeks). Yet, I continued reading with some foreboding…
There are 4 stories in this novel which I supposed inspired rather than a retelling of any fairy tales. Each story was preceded by some phrases of a fairy tale on which stories are based. These stories are set in more contemporary times with loose interpretations on fairy tales’ mothers. What is missing from these stories are the magic usually employed in fairy tales, the basic good vs. evil, and the ultimate love prevails overall sort of path. In spite of this, these stories are cleverly realistic and frighteningly Grimm-like.
The black and white of distinction between good and evil is blurred as these stories dug into the human psyche. These mothers are far from perfect and each carry own unique struggles in her role as a woman and a mother. These well-told tales carried the burdens of motherhood throughout the ages into contemporary settings where appearances are just never what they seemed. This was highlighted throughout by black humour; pushing out or aside that darkness within us all can sometimes be overpowering.
My instincts tell me that if I were to read this a decade or so from now, I would’ve appreciated it more. But in consideration of my current situation, my heart ached for the future: the upcoming birth, the joys & pains of small children, and further on, the promised heartbreak when they will eventually leave home. These are, of course, the natural course of life though reading Mothers Grimm made it all so awfully real to me –that these all collided in to one point in time so near rather than throughout the next decade or two. This book is one I’d like to re-read one day in the distant future to hopefully better appreciate.
Thank you, Allen & Unwin in conjunction with The Reading Room for copy of paperback .