Bookworm #2 – Time-travelling and Fairy Tales
I had plenty of time to read during my placement at Thursday Island – with the multiple flights etc. More historical fiction as well 🙂 Yeah, I never used to be too into historical fiction but as I grew older (I sound super old now), it’s becoming one of my favourite genres (if you can’t tell). I actually used to read a lot of YA but quite frankly, I’m trying to stay away from it now. Not that I despise it – but I find it so disheartening nowadays . I look at all these books and inadvertently cringe when I read the blurb. They feel like cookie-cutter versions of each other (and Twilight). There is always a girl and a “mysterious, dangerous boy” that she knows is nothing but trouble but can’t help but feel irrevocably drawn to him. I’ll admit, I do have a thing for mysterious, dangerous guys who are enigmas but it’s just off-putting to pick up a book and read the same blurb over and over again. Doesn’t mean that I won’t read a good book if it presents itself…but yeah.
Ranting aside, let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading:
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (Goodreads Link)
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Title: The Firebird
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: – 4/5
Summary: Whoever dares to seek the Firebird may find the journey — and its ending — unexpected.
Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes sees images; glimpses of those who have owned it before. It’s never been a gift she wants, and she keeps it a secret from most people, including her practical boss Sebastian, one of London’s premier dealers in Russian art.
But when a woman offers Sebastian a small wooden carving for sale, claiming it belonged to Russia’s first Empress Catherine, it’s a problem. There’s no proof. Sebastian believes that the plain carving — known as “The Firebird” — is worthless. But Nicola’s held it, and she knows the woman is telling the truth, and is in desperate need of the money the sale of the heirloom could bring.
Compelled to help, Nicola turns to a man she once left, and still loves: Rob McMorran, whose own psychic gifts are far greater than hers. With Rob to help her “see” the past, she follows a young girl named Anna from Scotland to Belgium and on into Russia.
There, in St. Petersburg — the once-glittering capital of Peter the Great’s Russia — Nicola and Rob unearth a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption…an old story that seems personal and small, perhaps, against the greater backdrops of the Jacobite and Russian courts, but one that will forever change their lives
Yes, I’m more so interested in historical books nowadays and reading the summary of this book – a parallel book – I immediately gobbled it up. This book is told from two main characters – Nicola from the present and through Nicola’s gift of catching glimpses of the past, Anna. You know that feeling when you begin reading a book and you just know that it’s going to be a good one? This is the feeling that I got when I started reading Chapter 1 of The Firebird.
Did it meet my expectations? Yes it did indeed!
Nicola is a wonderful character, with a gift that she doesn’t want to use but is prompted to in order to help a dying woman. I enjoyed watching her interactions with Rob as well, you honestly, he’s so patient and a sweet guy. Their relationship is sweet but it isn’t the focus of the story and takes the back-burner as another character, Anna, is introduced. As we began to delve more into Anna’s world, I found myself finding more interested in Anna’s story than Nicola’s unfortunately (hence the 4/5) but I suppose that is because we get to watch Anna grow up into the strong, intelligent woman that she becomes.
Definitely a brilliantly read 🙂
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth (GoodReads Link)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Title: The Wild Girl
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fairy Tales
Rating: – 4/5
Summary: Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.
It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.
I was EXTREMELY excited for this book! Like super duper excited! I was away at Thursday Island while the book was released and lamented over the fact I had to wait a whole week before sinking into this book. I had absolutely loved Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth and when I heard that she was writing another historical novel, I was eagerly counting down the days.
With so much hype, how did book fare?
I liked it a lot. It was an interesting to read a novel about Dortchen Wild, who I hadn’t even know existed. Dortchen Wild existed – she was actually the wife of Wilhelm Grimm, one of the Grimm Brothers. Yes that’s right, the Grimm Brothers! Kate Forsyth once again demonstrates her ability to shine the light on the forgotten women in European history.
A warning though – the book does have a turn of darkness in it, which may make some uncomfortable. If you’re familiar with the tale ‘All Kinds of Fur’ (or Deerskin by Robin McKinley – a novel based on the fairy tale) it treads along those lines. Kate Forsyth however doesn’t tread on it for no good reason, or to add some ‘drama’ – in fact, in the after word she explains her reasoning which I found incredibly well thought and researched. Intrigued? Well here’s a copy of the afterword and what Kate has to say about it.
Spoiler (A Section from Kate Forsyth Afterword):
“While researching Dortchen’s stories, I read a study by a psychologist about the therapeutic use of fairy tales to help victims of abuse. The psychologist had noticed the key differences between the first version of ‘All Kinds of Fur’ which was written down by Wilhelm Grimm and rushed to the printers in October 1812, and the later, edited version of the story, published in the 1819 edition. Victims of abuse who read the 1812 version always identified strongly with the girl in the tale, and thought that the king she married in the end was in fact her father. The later version very carefully made it clear that the father-king and the bridgegroom-kind were different men. The first story was identified as a tale of incest fulfilled. The second was a tale of incest diverted.
Later, I read a book by the eminent fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes in which he speculated that the reason Wilhelm Grimm changed that particular story, and other incest tales in the collection such as ‘The Maiden With No Hands’, was that he himself had been abused as a child. But why, then, would he have included them in the first place I wondered. It occurred to me that perhaps that it was Dortchen, his future wife, who had been abused, and that Wilhelm, once he realised this, had changed the story as a kind of gift to her. He certainly included a veiled reference to her as a ‘Wild deer’ in the final version of ‘All Kinds of Fur’.”
Any book recommendations?
I’m not really a book person, but I kinda want to read The Wild Girl! It seems really interesting, and I’ve actually always liked historical fiction/drama. I watch a lot of wuxia shows (Chinese historical drama with martial arts, although the martial arts is optional for me), so I really appreciate when authors try take historical fact and try to insert a creative story that intertwines between truth and fiction. Thanks for the summaries/reviews! 😀
Oh my gosh… I need these books in my life as soon as humanly possible! Especially The Firebird. I finished reading The Swan Kingdom, and like you said of recent YA titles… it is a flat-feeling piece of garbage. Ok, ok… not garbage per se… but it’s a newish YA, not pre-Twilight… and the boy is sparkling with cookie-cutter sugar. It’s ridiculous. If I read it without knowing anything about Twilight, I’d probably be wondering why in the world the guy was in the book in the first place, it did not further the story much. Anyway… I would love to cheer you on about your writing endeavors! What is it that you are working on right now? I’m finishing up my second chapter. Not sure where it’s going to go, yet.
Oh oh, I want to read The Firebird now! Sounds fun! I have the same feeling about YA fiction. It’s getting out of hand. I just assume read trashy romance novels for 10 cents that I find at gas stations than deal with that crap anymore. I haven’t had time to read lately but I miss it!
You could post it (the ebook) on the forum! 😀 That’d be awesome!
I didn’t plan at all when I was a teenaged writing-machine. Adulthood made me think planning was a good thing. Then I tried it a few times and it didn’t work out quite like I wanted it to. The story always became stale and I felt myself becoming detached from it. I think I’ve found that if I write a journal entry about what I want to accomplish, what my characters might feel while going through the scene… I kind of have a personalized prompt that’s fun and dandy. I like a semi-planned story, I guess you could say.
That’s great you read 2 books and enjoyed them both. Do you post reviews to books on Amazon by chance? Firebird sounds so interesting. I like books where characters have special abilities and there’s a mystery to unravel such as finding out about the owner of the wooden carving.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres too! I agree that new books today are always like Twilight. I haven’t read in a long time though because I’m so busy with school! I’m going to add these to my list for the summer.
I don’t have recommendations off the top of my head haha.
They’re really interesting, I should say. Especially The Firebird. Regardless of that minor flaw in the plot (the part where Anna’s life was more emphasized than Nicola’s) I would really read this book. Speaking of which, I agree on what you reasoned on the 4/5 stars on this book. In these cases, the author should balance it up. Readers would be confused whose story are they reading.