Vasilisa The Wise- Review

Vasilisa The Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women: Retold by Kate Forsyth, Illustrated by Lorena Carrington. 

I have most likely in the past gushed about my undying love for Kate Forsyth and her work. I was excited the moment she first posted that she was working on this project with Lorena Carrington. I love her fairy tale retelling novels, so of course I was going to love her book of fairy tale retellings. I got this book straight away and began reading it. However, until now I hadn’t made it past the first two stories. The title includes, ‘tales of brave young women,’ and although Vasilisa and Kaite Crackernuts were brave, I was slightly disappointed both tales ended with the girls getting married. So I stopped reading and didn’t look at the book again until now.

My love for Kate and her work made me rethink; there’s no way I could be disappointing by all of these stories, and so I tried again and jumped in at story number three. This story is a retelling of ‘A Bride for me before a Bride for you,’ and I honestly loved it. I had not read the original, but in Lorena’s comment after the story she reveals how Kate changed the story, in the original the girl was forced to marry the serpent prince, but Kate changed it so she was the brave girl who made the decision, and although she still ends up with a man, she made the choice and ended up in the arms of her hot new husband, who just happens to be heir to the throne meaning she will be Queen… I thought that was pretty kickass. It also made me see the other stories in a new light, these are fairy tales after all and who am I to say the girls shouldn’t get their man and their happy ending?

After ‘A Bride for me before a Bride for you,’ my second favourite story in this book has to be ‘The Singing, Springing Lark.’ I have came across this story in the Grimms’ brothers tales before, but also because Kate told this story in her book, ‘The Wild Girl’ and retold it in her book, ‘The Beast’s Garden.’ This was actually the only story in this book I was familiar with the original. However, it felt like an entirely new tale in this book. How Kate can take the same story and retell it in so many ways I don’t know, but she has done it and it has become more gorgeous every time. If you were ever to read a version of this variant of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ read Kate’s.

The great thing about the stories in this book is that they all have different origins. They all come from different countries and Kate and Lorena reveal the source of how they first came across them. Meaning I have not only read this book, but came out with a list of other fairy tale books I am now desperate to find and read!

Of course, the other aspect of this book other than the tales themselves, is Lorena Carringtons gorgeous illustrations. The pictures were actually made from montages of separate pictures, and the images of the girls are Lorena and Kates daughters, as Lorena wanted the girls to be real. However, every other image of the fairy tale creatures from the tales were made from items actually found in the forest. Such a stunning idea and very well paid off. Here’s a few of my favourite images from the book:

‘The Singing, Springing Lark’

lark

‘The Rainbow Prince’

rainbow prince

‘A Bride For Me Before A Bride For You’

serpent prince

‘The Stolen Child’

scottish fairytale

 

It was really difficult to just select four images from this book because every single illustration is beautiful and it was clear that Kate and Lorena shared a vision when it came to the storytelling. I can’t wait to see what they do next, and I would recommend reading Vasilisa the Wise and other tales of Brave Young Women in the mean time.

 

Charlotte.

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The Nowhere Girls- Review

GR Synopsis:

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.
Who are the Nowhere Girls?
They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:
Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.
Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.
Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.
When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.
Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

 

I read this as my holiday book this year. I was on holiday during the recent vote to Repeal the 8th in Ireland. I was sitting on a bus tour of Barcelona, reading all the #hometovote tweets and trying not to cry in my emotional sangria-hangover state. The next day I was sitting on the beach (nursing a long island iced tea hangover) when I read the results of the vote. I had also spent the majority of that day reading this book. I was overwhelmed with pride and happiness and an overall sense of absolute girl power. Both the vote, and this book represented a chance for change for women and taking power of what happens to our bodies. To know that votes can make a change and just speaking up can make a change is amazing. I hope that women can continue to fight.

 

Now more on the book. I absolutely loved this book and I think I still would have if I had read it during a different time, when there was no life changing event happening for women. Because in this book a life changing event does happen. A girl called Grace moves into the old room of a girl called Lucy, and this sparks a major decision to see change at their male-dominated school and to fight the rape culture their fellow students have suffered.

The three girls that tell the story in this book all represent womanhood, or perhaps girlhood is more appropriate,( I don’t know, they seem more grown than many older than them) in different ways. Their stories are quite different as are their characterisations which is something I think Amy Reed has done excellently.

Let’s start with Grace:

Grace represents both the big girl and the Religious girl. She believes in waiting until she is married, but is still totally open and cool about girls who aren’t into that. She is very anti slut shaming and I love her for that, especially when she reaches out to Amber. Though I’m not sure she had quite as much of a reason as some of the other girls to start ‘The nowhere girls’, as I’m not sure just being in Lucy’s room is motive enough, I’m still glad she did and a girl like her was not only able to be part of the movement, but to also lead it.

Rosina:

My biggest issue with Rosina as a character is that she is kind of hitting all the ‘token’ diversity troupes in one character. The lesbian, latino, badgirl? I couldn’t help but think she would be joining the cast of Orange is the new Black at some point.

Also again, her motive was slightly questionable. She states she spat in the face of the boys who were accused, but other than being a girl who is angry about pretty much everything, where was her motive behind this? Though I don’t believe you need to have been through rape yourself to be angered or want to make a change, this reaction by Rosina felt a little extreme. She also states she was not friends with Lucy. I think perhaps this was Amy Reed’s way of presenting Rosina as the strong ballsy girl, and also setting up for the principal to target her later. Which I can’t call her out too much on as that was a nice twist. I honestly did think she would be the one to turn the girls in to save her grandmother, but she stuck with them and that was pretty amazing.

Erin:

Recently a classmate of mine received some rather hurtful comments after she wrote a piece about her brother with autism. Basically the comments were that she should not be writing about that kind of thing. This is nonsense. If we never see characters representing these things, we will never understand them. That is why Erin was such an important character, and getting a glimpse inside her head was even more important.

The move to create ‘The Nowhere Girls’ was hardest for her. Not only because of her fear of crowds, but also as someone who went through a rape herself. Her story is revealed slowly, as Erin would have told it herself, if Erin ever told it herself. But she knows that sharing her experience can help someone else, which we see at the end of the book. She lets down her guard to be part of the movement and it is an action that is stronger than the other girls. That is not to say the other girls were not also strong though, especially the ones who came forward to make statements to the police.

Us:

I think the excerpts of this book which are told from ‘Us’ are what really made this book so compelling. Hearing every girls struggle coming to terms with her sexuality, and even seeing some girls completely embracing theirs. Sex can be scary, but it also doesn’t have to be. I think Amy Reed done an amazing job representing this. When the girls go on a sex strike to get back at the boys, one girl Sam says, but why should we suffer? Although this book is very focused on rape culture, it is also about these young girls coming to terms with their sexuality and I’m glad there was a voice supporting those girls who have sex for themselves, just because they love it.

 

I think Amy Reed brought the issues to light beautifully in this book and focused on a society which does still face this culture and beliefs that boys can pretty much do what they want. It sends a strong message especially to teenagers and it is empowering to any girl who reads it. I believe it may have a massive effect on how they see themselves and the males in their lives.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend.

 

Charlotte.