Monday, 14 November 2016

Review: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue

Title: Kissing the Witch
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher:  Picador
Pages: 228
Genres: Short Story Collection

In Kissing the Witch, Emma Donoghue  unwinds thirteen fairy tales and writes them anew: Cinderella forsakes the handsome prince and runs off with the fairy godmother, Beauty discovers the Beast behind the mask is not so very different from the face she sees in the mirror, and Snow White is awakened from slumber by the bittersweet fruit of an unnamed desire.

In these stories, Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances - sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characters shed their antiquated cloaks to travel a seductive new landscape, radiantly transformed.
A collection of fairytales that are butchered retold with an apparent feminist and lesbian/bisexual slant. A character at the end of each story bridges the gap to the next tale by telling it as their own. I found it bizarre. For example, a horse's severed head says that in a past life it was a princess and so the next tale begins. It didn't work for me.

These retellings are touted as feminist but I don't understand what is feminist by portraying nearly every male character in the book as rapists, stupid, paedophiles or ultimately superfluous to needs. It seemed a bit like tackling sexism with more sexism. Not to mention a few heroines are randomly starting romantic relationships with their mother figures who raised them which made no sense and seemed to me like incest, which I found uncomfortable. It was just all a bit strange and I don't think it worked.

Donoghue changed some of the fairytales beyond recognition, to the point where I didn't always recognise them. They were very short and simply told, there really not much substance to them at all. I would not recommend this book, especially if you don't like the essence of your favourite fairytales being changed to the extent that it doesn't even remotely resemble the original. If this book weren't so short, I would have DNF'd.

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