"Once upon a time," A.S. Byatt's title fairy story begins, "when men and women hurtled through the air on metal wings, when they wore webbed feet and walked on the bottom of the sea, learning the speech of whales and the songs of the dolphins ... there was a woman who was largely irrelevant, and therefore happy. Her business was storytelling..." But this is no backward looking, quaint fairy time. The time is the present, and the protagonist is a sensible scholar who is given the not-at-all sensible gift of a genie. How will Gillian, an expert in fairy stories and well versed in all that can go wrong with wishes, use hers? |
Distinguished British author and Booker Prize-winner A.S. Byatt creates fairy tales for adults, each a blend of the magical and the modern, and readers of Angels & Insects and Possession will recognize the role of Victorian fairy tales in her fiction. This handsome little book includes reproductions of woodcuts that evoke our childhood wonder for dragons and princesses, glass coffins and netherworldly things.
The magnificent title story of this collection of fairy tales for adults describes the strange and uncanny relationship between its extravagantly intelligent heroine--a world renowned scholar of the art of story-telling--and the marvelous being that lives in a mysterious bottle, found in a dusty shop in an Istanbul bazaar. As A.S. Byatt renders this relationship with a powerful combination of erudition and passion, she makes the interaction of the natural and the supernatural seem not only convincing, but inevitable.
The companion stories in this collection each display different facets of Byatt's remarkable gift for enchantment. They range from fables of sexual obsession to allegories of political tragedy; they draw us into narratives that are as mesmerizing as dreams and as bracing as philosophical meditations; and they all us to inhabit an imaginative universe astonishing in the precision of its detail, its intellectual consistency, and its splendor.