Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes

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Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand
by Louise Hawes

May 19th 2008 by Houghton Mifflin
Hardcover, 224 pages
0618747974   (isbn13: 9780618747979)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written collection.  Hawes retells six familiar stories and a nursery rhyme.  Rather than the idyllic heroes and princesses, these are stories of human desire, frailty, cruelty, and loyalty.  Reacquaint yourself with Jack the Giant-killer, Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper of Hamlin and Lady Godiva.  Meet Rapunzel’s mother, as well as the seventh of the seven dwarves, and the emasculated prince who married Cinderella.

Kirkus Reviews writes that these seven tales are
magical and sometimes erotic happily-never-after retellings. . . In this sinister, highly sexual faerie world, heroes are often evil and villains are sometimes innocents who simply don't get to tell their side of the story.
I considered this point of view for a long time, because I didn’t find this book to be erotic or highly sexual.  Certainly the Grimm Brothers’ tales can be as dark as anything Hawes has offered here.  Perhaps Kirkus Reviews are comparing the tales to the G-rated Disney versions.  In that case, then…yes.  Hawe’s faerie world is “sinister and highly sexual.”

Instead of “sexual,” however, I would use the word “appetite.”  Hawe’s collection of tales shows human appetites in all their variations:  for money, for fame, for ease, and, yes, for sexual connection, as well as sexual gratification.  Further, Hawes writes in tones as darkly lush and precious as any jewel, pearls or no.

I recommend this book on its own literary merits, but if I still haven’t convinced you to read it, consider this:  I have one good reason for you to read this book.  The illustration of the Pied Piper of Hamlin makes any imagining of Edward Cullen seem like a toad-faced bottom-dweller.  Rebecca Guay’s illustrations make these black pearls truly luminous.

Other Blog Reviews:

Charlotte's Library
As the title suggests, Hawes is not shining light into these stories to make them sparkle in a pretty fairy dust way, but rather to revel dark layers and complexities. This darkness is nicely judged--not so much as to induce prurient squirming or sick horror, but enough to rivet and disturb.

Compulsive Reader
Anyone who has out-grown the childish fancies that fairy tales are notorious for, but not the tales themselves, will fall in love with this book, and the more mature content will add to its appeal. Hawes has a way of highlighting the intricacies of human emotions and relationships, making Black Pearls a bold, brilliant read.

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