Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review by Shellie: Tender Morsels ~ by Margo Lanagan

 51xtO8IThCL._SL160_                                                        Tender Morsels ~ by Margo Lanagan, is the co-winner of the World Fantasy Award for 2009.

It is a dark and disturbing retelling of a fairytale for young adults which is wonderfully creative yet one which not everyone will enjoy.

Set Up:   This story is a version of the tale Rose Red and Snow White. A story with two young sister whose names are in the title live in a forest with their mother and become friends with a bear. According to the link there is no connection to the American version or any other version of Snow White.

Unlike the actual tale, and with some artistic license, Margo Lanagan gives it depth and interest with the inclusion of an actual bear event set in Europe. The author apparently viewed a festival on television prior to writing the story and therefore included it in the retelling. Also unlike the original the setting is within two parallel worlds connected by magic. Where the “real world” is a version of our past being lit only by fire. The second world is “the false world” or that “of the heart’s desire”,  and is an idealized version or our world. All created in desperation by the main character Liga (the girls’ mother), through personal trauma, her inability to deal with reality, and to keep her daughters safe.

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My Thoughts:  There are many things I like about this book. The writing is evocative and disturbing; the language used is set in period with an English/Australian bent, making it feel old and rural; the book cover renditions support some of the major themes within the story (I am highly visual); and the evil characters are given a perspective which helps the reader to sympathize with them – because that's what happens in real life.

It is a wonderfully complex rendition of the original story. It is multilayered where the author brings in some important themes, two of which are Women’s issues around social oppression and strength.

Here is a quote which shows the oppressiveness of the social structure of the real world compared to the “heart’s desire” world:

Annie peered and grinned. “Heh-heh. There is nothing like upbringing up in a heaven to give a girl a false confidence.”

“False, you think?” said Liga anxiously, dropping the lace back across the windo.

“The size o’ that mob, Liga? I say false. Get yourself dressed, girl, in your very best; we will need to summon all the menfolk and all the respectability we can, if she’s not to be whipped in the street.”

To be raised in an environment with no constraints one may have a false confidence about one’s ability to counter social mores of a present society, no matter how warranted they are.

Another quote regarding one woman’s strength:

…She, Urdda, must see that place someday, where women dressed so beautifully yet so plain, rode about alone. No one would dare spit upon this woman, or call out at her. She had a different kind of boldness, a strength that did not defy that of men so much as ignore it, or take its place without question beside it – Urdda wanted some of that boldness.

A wonderful role model for young women.

Be forewarned this is not a light story, and addresses some very very dark and difficult issues. It is not a story which everyone is going to enjoy or even like. Tender Morsels won the World Fantasy Award for 2009  covering the year 2008. Personally, I can see why. I love dark fantasy which touches on important social issues and  is also well written. This is exceptional. I have given this story a rare 5 stars.

About the Author:   Margo Lanagan (links to her blog) gives a grounding interview about her book which counters the controversy around it. She includes some realistic answers about why she address such difficult and controversial issues.

Purchasing links from Amazon US/UK/Canada, The Book Depository AUD and Euro.


I found Tender Morsels on Goodreads by several friends whom reviewed it highly. Both have given it 5 stars.

Nancy: Beautifully written, rich, disturbing, compelling, yet hopeful, with vividly drawn characters whose tragic and joyful lives fully engage the emotions.

Other reviews:


This book will be a added to the Women Unbound, The New Author’s Challenge, The Basics, and The Speculative Fiction Challenge

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.

17 comments:

Charlie said...

An EXCELLENT review, Shellie, along with other other readers' thoughts. This is one of the best you've done.

Fyrefly said...

Thanks for the link! I'm reading a collection of Grimm's fairy tales at the moment, and it's got both "Snow White" (which is the familiar one with the dwarves) and "Snow White and Rose Red" in it, and they don't have much in common except the name. I wonder how (or if) the two tales are related historically?

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Charlie -
You flatter me! Thank :)

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Firefly -

You are so welcome... and that is an excellent question. When you know please fill me in.

This book has made we want to explore fairytales a bit more... I even downloaded Grim's and Anderson's ebooks online. When I will get to them... who knows. :)

Thanks for commenting!

Andrea said...

Excellent review. I don't think I would enjoy it though. Like you said, it's not a good for everyone.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Andrea -
Thanks!

Yes I think that this may be one of those hate or love books...

You will no doubt be enthralled by the writing...and the elements she puts together absolutely amazing.....however it is very very dark at times.

Thanks for stopping by. :)

emilie said...

shellie,
i am honored to be included in your review.
and i agree, your reviews are getting more powerful and insightful.

Kris said...

Slaughter House 5 time demensions meet Snow White. Sounds interesting!!

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Emilie -
Yeah!
Thanks for coming by.

It such and excellent quote!

I do think they might be getting a bit better... they were really really awkward at first... :)

Kris -
Wow, you think Slaughter House 5 elements are connected to this...... I will have to think about that when I finally get to reading that classic. It is on my 5 year plan list.

I have yet to be by your blog since I finally found it... soon!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I really need to try reading this book again. I picked it up about a year ago and couldn't get into it, but have since read nothing but absolutely glowing reviews! Must not have been the right time before...

Alexia561 said...

Great review! I hadn't heard of this book, but for you to give it 5 stars makes me want to check it out. Thanks!

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

ABM -
Perhaps its not a book for you either... I love books with dark themes that address important social issues. I'm slightly twisted in that respect... more coming around this subject.

Not everyone is going to be able to get through this book or past the first chapter. Some of the stuff brought up in the book is considered taboo - and the beginning is bordering creepy. Also the language is hard if your not familiar with England/Australian English - not to say that would a deterrent for you.

I may have had a tough time a number of years ago but since I am married to an English man I am very accustomed to the language differences... which you may not think exist.. but they do.

The book does bring up many many important issues... and the writing is amazing as is her creativity for bringing the story line together.

I will keep my eyes peeled around your thoughts about this book. :)

Alexia -
Thank you!

This is only my tiny opinion. I will definitely be interested in what you think about it too.

This is my first World Fantasy Award winner - I am now a big fan. I wonder how long it will take me to read the entire list...lol. At my reading rate I may not make it through before I die. But it will be fun trying.

Aarti said...

I have heard so many good things about this book and Lanagan's writing. I am not going to read your review, but I'll just note that I must read her asap!!

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Aarti -
You know I do that as well.. just a quick skim for basic info so that I am not spoiled....

I will be interested to see what you think and I certainly hope you love it like I did. Then perhaps you can come back and see why I gave it 5 stars.

Happy Sunday!

mel u said...

great review-I will look for this book in the stores here in Manila

Krista said...

Oh man, Shellie, this sounds awesome! I love Snow White and you make this sound better than the original. I'm also a highly visual person and I like the picture you have painted for me already. This is right up my alley and I will definitely have to pick up this book. Thank you for the 5 star review! :)

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Mel -
Thanks - I hope you can find it. I have noted from your posts that you have tons of difficulties over there obtaining titles.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did - will be looking out for your thoughts.

Krista!

I think you may like this - its not like our version of snow white. Its entirely different.

Be prepared for very dark!

I can't wait for your thoughts on this one as well. I know we both love Sanderson - so it will be interesting to see if this fits the bill as well.

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