Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Girl who read a Gorgeous Fairytale in a Bed of her own Making

Constable & Robinson, £6.99
   Well, I have a confession to make. In a contradiction of the title of this post, the bed probably wasn't really made properly when I was lying in it reading this treat, but it didn't affect the experience at all, thankfully!
   This is the stunning 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making' by Catherynne M. Valente. The UK edition is published by Corsair (9781780338330), and they've done an amazing job of it. It's a beautiful book in large paperback format with great shaded drawings at the start of each chapter. 
   I had discovered the buzz about this book online quite a few months ago, and was about to order it from the US when I saw that it was being released for the UK market in June. Even knowing that fact, I was so tempted to buy it when I saw it in bookshops in Florida on my holidays in May just because the US edition is so gorgeous as well.  
   Well, I was very patient and waited until the book arrived in the bookshop where I work before nabbing a copy. Reading it, I was constantly struck by the smooth, really flowing style. It seemed to me that the author had (although this was obviously not the case) written the book, drafts and edits and tweaks and all, entirely in her head before committing it to paper. 
   This is the story of a girl called September who is whisked away (without even a wave goodbye, as children so often are a bit heartless, apparently!) by the Green Wind from her parents' home in Omaha to Fairyland. She is quickly informed of some of the laws of Fairyland - no iron of any kind; the practice of alchemy forbidden to all except young ladies born on Tuesdays; air locomotion permitted only by leopard or licensed Ragwort stalk; all traffic travels widdershins; all changelings must wear identifying footwear. 
   In the course of her fabulous adventures, September travels with a wyverary (a dragon whose father was a library) called A-Through-L, loses her shadow, rescues a blue djinn boy called Saturday, and encounters her Death. A friendly golem scrubs clean her courage (and her elbows), telling her: 'When you are born, your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things into your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. So most people go around with grimy machinery, when all it would take is a bit of spit and polish to make them paladins once more, bold knights and true.'
   I have to really highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, from eight to eighty. It's fresh and new, bright and sweet.


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