Review: “The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales” by Angela Slatter 2010

Posted: October 30, 2010 by Rebecca @ Dirty Sexy Books in 5 Stars - It Kept Me Up All Night!, Review
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5 Stars – It Kept Me Up All Night!

Plot Summary: The sixteen fairy tales in this collection are either re-imagined classics or conjured from the ether by author Angela Slatter.  With a not-so-subtle emphasis on female heroines, each story turns the idea of a “happily ever after” ending with Prince Charming on its head.  For some of these ladies, their happy ending comes after they’ve escaped from their so-called beloved, and what’s more, they’re not passively sitting around in towers or castles waiting for things to happen to them.

[To my regular readers: Do you recall when I mentioned this book in one of my Friday News posts a few months back?  At the time I was moaning and groaning that I couldn't read it because I'd literally have to order it from Australia, but the publisher followed up with me a few weeks later and said it was now available from Amazon.  I placed my order that same day, despite the $17.99 price tag for a paperback!, and I have to say that it was money well-spent.]

After I had my first dark, delicious taste of Angela Slatter’s idea of a fairy tale in her first story, “Bluebeard,” I was addicted to The Girl With No Hands.  I wanted to slow down and savor these potent little creations, but I could not stop reading, and now all I want to do is go back and reread them again.  I love fairy tales, and I still have all of the old books that I used to read as a kid, but I think those cherished memories are going to take a backseat to this collection.

Ms. Slatter, who is a Writer with a capital W, has done two things that I absolutely adore.  First, she removed the old morals, codes, and rules that have governed fairy tales ever since they were put on paper.  Before they were appropriated for childhood indoctrination, fairy tales used to be wild, haunting, fantastical stories that were not really fit for children at all.  This book restores them to realm of adults, and while doing so, Ms. Slatter also questions the notion that people are black or white, right or wrong, good or bad.  I like it when characters are painted in shades of grey rather than absolutes, and it makes for powerful storytelling.

I just loved this book, and I’m not normally one to enjoy short story collections, but I guess this proves that I’ll never be too old for a fairy tale.

Comments
  1. Dot S. says:

    I’m sold. I too love fairytales even the Grimm scary ones. I also like when authors twist the old familiar ones. Rebecca, how about a TOP 10 of re-imagined and adult fairytales?

    • Hi Dot – I love the idea, but I haven’t come across all that many adult fairy tales to make up a top ten list. If I did, this book would be on it.

    • H, Dot.
      Not sure if it’s a top ten, but my faves include:
      1. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber
      2. Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch
      3. Catherynne M Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden
      4. Catherynne M Valente’s The Oprhan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice
      5. Robert Coover’s Briar Rose
      6. Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels
      7. Marina Warner’s Mermaids in the Basement

      That’s just off the top of my head.
      Angela

      • Dot S. says:

        Hi Angela, Thanks for the list!! I already have your book and Angela Carter’s on my wish list. I’ll check out the others and I’m sure they will be on it also.

  2. Interesting! I may just have to pick this up then. Thanks for the rec. :)

    • Hi Shara – Oh yes, I highly recommend this one, but sadly I don’t think it’ll be easy to find. Aside from buying it from Australia, I think Amazon is the only one who has it.

      Ms. Slatter has another short story collection that came out this year in the U.K. called “Sourdough and other stories” and I’m having a devil of a time trying to track it down. No one has it in stock! I just want to read more of her work.

  3. Very cool – like fractured fairy tales. Might go on my to buy list.

  4. I’m skipping the review until I read it myself, but then I’ll be back. :)

    In the meantime: the cover is really, really interesting.

  5. mo says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    This does look very interesting. I think you may have sold me on it. Bookdepository.com has a very large selection of books and for us Aussies the prices are excellent, plus they don’t charge for shipping.

  6. Hi, Rebecca.

    Thanks for the lovely review – I’m so pleased you enjoyed the collection :-) .

    Best.

    Angela

  7. Oh, also, the cover was designed by my friend and fellow writer, Lisa Hannett, who also has a collection with Ticonderoga coming out next year. The illustration is from a costume design for the Ballet Russes production of Narcisse, and is by the designer Bakht.

  8. Claire C says:

    this sounds great, i’ve added it to my wishlist until i’m feeling flush (i’ve already spent Novembers book budget, heres hoping for lots of amazon vouchers for my birthday)

  9. Hi, Rebecca
    Many thanks for this review.

    I apologise for the price, it’s a constant challenge for an Australian indie press to be able deliver books worldwide at the right price, but I’m working on it. Had I known you were going to review it (and review it so brilliantly and glowingly) I’d have sent you a copy for free. Please feel free to look over the TP website and if anything else piques your fancy, drop me a line.

    Kind regards
    Russell
    Editor, Ticonderoga Publications

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