This multi award-winning book is an eclectic mix of gothic fairytale, contemporary teenage issues and genuinely spooky stuff.
It only took two pages before I was deliciously disorientated and permanently hooked. I wasn’t just looking through Isola Wilde’s eyes, I was experiencing her world.
What a wonderful world it was, both strange and familiar, meshing reality and fantasy in a believable way. Isola has trouble with boys, school and home, ghosts, fairies and gargoyles.
She has human friends she can rely on and trust – her best friend Grape, her companion James and Edgar, the new boy next door. But these friends can’t help with the trouble she’s in. There’s a dead girl in a birdcage in Wilde Wood and her ghost won’t rest until Isola is dead.
Isola has other friends, equally as real, even though they are drawn from the pages of her mother’s book of fairytales, the Pardieu Fables and Fairytales by Lileo Pardieu. These, like Isola, are the children of Nimue– a fury, a fairy, a ghost boy, a mermaid and an old friend of spiders. Along with James, they are her six protector princes and she is their princess.
They all want to protect her but they can’t. At a time when they should pull together, they pull apart.
Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a book to be read slowly. There are nuances of plot and language that are easily missed. I admit to going back and rereading large chunks – just to make sure I had all the pieces.
The narrative is filled with wonderful words and phrases that sit seamlessly in the storytelling. I can flip open anywhere and find a visually evocative image:
She had a great oil spill of a cloak
Or this glorious piece of description:
The sky was a burnt sepia of autumn; a paper lantern moon hung aloft and the palette of the forest was bitten and bloody.
Or the fairytales book itself:
The enormous book was leather-bound and gold-gilded. It looked as if it had been knocked from a wild woman’s bookshelf as the raging townsfolk ransacked her cottage and dragged her by her hair to the oil-doused stake in the village square.
A truly amazing debut novel which has no doubt left many readers like me, waiting to see what follows.
Reviewed by Sandy Fussell
Title: Fairytales for Wilde Girls
Author: Allyse Near
Publisher: Random House AustraliaPublication Date: $19.99 RRP