One of my favorite things about reading is discovering new authors. I get so much out of reading – relaxation, knowledge, emotional release, entertainment – that I am grateful that there are so many authors out there. I respect authors and what they go through to bring many a beloved character to life. They do it for themselves, I know, but sometimes I think they did it just for me, so that I would get a moment to break away from my day and just fall into another world.
I find authors in all sorts of ways. Through blogs (The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was a Fellowship of the Worms book club selection). Through NetGalley (The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North was featured on the site). And through friends (I am forever grateful to my best friend for introducing me to the Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey). Today’s author, sadly, was introduced to me through my colleagues, who created a display of his works because he had recently died. And while I am so glad I discovered Graham Joyce, I am also saddened that he has no more time to create beautiful worlds, like the one he created in Some Kind of Fairy Tale. Here’s Joyce’s description of one part of the world encompassed in his novel:
“The bluebells made such a pool that the earth had become like water, and all the trees and bushes seemed to have grown out of the water. And the sky above seemed to have fallen down on to the earth floor; and I didn’t know if the sky was earth or the earth was water. I had been turned upside down. I had to hold the rock with my fingernails to stop me from falling into the sky of the earth or the water of the sky. But I couldn’t hold on, and I know I went soaring.” – p. 42
Some Kind of Fairy Tale brings to life the story of a teenaged girl who walks into the enchanted Outwoods in rural England. When she returns, 20 years have elapsed, though, in the world she came from it had been only 6 months. What follows is an exploration of memory, trust, faith and what happens when one decision so utterly changes the course of multiple lives.
I want to talk about something that I don’t always talk about: Perspectives. While the story is generally written by an unknown third-person omniscient narrator, the perspective switches a few times without warning to three different characters. And yet, it was easy to figure out which character was speaking, and this made me appreciate Joyce’s grasp of his characters even more. First there’s Tara, the girl who is trapped for six months in a kind of Otherworld – called the land of the fairies by everyone but her. When the story switches to her perspective, we get poetic and descriptive language, beautifully used to render the vivid Otherworld and her experiences in shocking detail. Richie, the boy she left behind and who was suspected of murdering her, speaks in short, choppy sentences. What should have been jarring actually had a lyrical quality to them, hinting at the character’s musical background. And finally, Vivian Underwood, the (male) psychiatrist who is tasked with figuring out just what happened to Tara, is heard through his case notes taken during his sessions. These notes provide the psychological explanations that many of the other characters jump to, as well as reflections on the aspects of the Otheworld/fairy world that crop up in Tara’s story, giving the reader an understanding of the elements of the story that have historical basis.
I think what’s most intriguing about the book is that, as the reader, you are unsure what to believe. Did Tara really go live with the fairies? Or did she have a psychotic break due to some tragedy? Joyce seeds this doubt by clearly rendering it in Tara herself:
“The most extraordinary thing about it all was how simple it was just to carry on. There were meals to be prepared and eaten; dishes to be washed; clothes to be laundered, ironed, and put on and taken off; beds to be slept in and made and unmade. The prosaic needs of day-to-day living blunted all impact of the miraculous; it demanded that the glorious be relegated. And she knew that even if she were able to convince everyone involved that she had witnessed something remarkable, had undergone a transcendental and miraculous experience, reached and returned from another world, it almost seemed like it would not ever, and could not ever, truly matter.” p. 254
I loved this book. I wish I could just go back and re-read through it again right now, but I loved it so much that I recommended it to a colleague who promptly checked it out when I returned it. That’s another thing I love about reading: Being able to share my discoveries with others. This is one of the reasons I keep blogging, even if I doubt that anyone is reading. And it is also why I value Reader’s Advisory so much. It is so rarely conducted in most of today’s libraries, but I think it’s something we can all use. It is a service that librarians are uniquely equipped to offer, though few take advantage of our knowledge. And because it seems to be a dying art form, the profession is losing its ability to offer it. With the exception of a passing mention in a textbook, it wasn’t even discussed in my graduate studies.
If you enjoy this then read…
With reader’s advisory in mind, I’m going to start offering a little reader’s advisory of my own at the end of my review posts. If you love Some Other Kind of Fairy Tale like I did, then grab one of these two novels: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman or The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein. Both feature other worlds into which characters travel. They also take place in a more contemporary setting, focusing on the line between the real and “fairy” worlds, as opposed to existing only in the fairy world. The Ocean at the End of the Lane has more lightness in it and The Uncertain Places is for those looking for darker fare.