Author: Jeanette Winterson
Taken from the Collection: The World and Other Places
Today’s story was a unique one – this one is written by one of my favourite writers, Jeanette Winterson. She has a fable like quality to her stories. They blend, they merge, they somehow surpass the human realm most of the time, or so it seems to the reader. Perhaps, with winter settling in and with the world taking on a new quality, I chose to read her story, “Psalms”.
“Psalms” is a story about a tortoise with the same name and it is about love and compassion of a tortoise. The story reminded me of her first book, “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” and somehow I could not tell why. The story is sparkling and bursting with energy and sometimes you wish she had written more about the tortoise. Read it and be amazed.
I have always believed that fairy tales were never meant to be written for children. Be it Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen or Charles Perrault, fairy tales were grotesque and often filled with graphic images which children should never have been exposed to. Come to think of it, the step-sister/step-brother concept has emerged primarily from Cinderella. The fruit and its always the apple I wonder why, has come from either Sleeping Beauty or Snow White to be the evil fruit and ridden with poison. Back to what I was trying to say earlier, fairy tales were for adults and that’s precisely what Mr. Maguire does magically with the re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in “Mirror Mirror”.
We all know of the tale told down from generation to generation, at schools, at recitals, through Disney (I have a bone to pick with them, but later) about the beautiful princess who lived with her father and her father dies and hence enters The Wicked Step-Mother, The Queen who wants to get rid of her and thus she starts planning the girl’s murder, the girl running away into the forest, meeting the seven dwarves, the biting into the apple and thr arrival of a prince and the happily ever afters.
This is the version we are all aware of. Now let’s get to what the book has to say. What I loved about it was that it was not a cumbersome read. I did try reading Wicked in the past and could not get past the 100th page. Mirror Mirror was different. The book is set in the sixteenth century Italy, where seven-year old Bianca de Nevada lives happily with her widowed father. A certain caravan comes to town (it reminded me of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes) at her home in Montefiore and brings with it the famous Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia – the brother and sister duo who with their arrival turn her world up side down. Bianca is left in the hands of Lucrezia after her father decides to go away in search of apples from the Tree of Knowledge (Hmmm, rather familiar with The Garden of Eden theory), and as Lucrezia is envious of her beauty and orders her killed. Bianca wakes in the shelter of seven dwarves.
The story is the same. It is the way it has been written. It does tend to get a bit of a drag at the beginning but do not let the start fool you. Read it through and see what you enter. The dwarves characterization is brilliantly done, especially the seventh dwarf motif. It reads as though it were real and trust me you would not want to put this down really soon and yet it will leave you yearning for more.