Book name: The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
Author: Daniel Lavery
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Publication Date: 2018
Star Rating: 4/5
Daniel Lavery is a trans writer who has crafted quite a niche for himself in clever commentaries and interpretations of classic literature and fairy tales.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror is a collection of short stories that re-tell fairy tales in modern form.
That statement doesn’t quite do justice to how original and philosophical these stories are, something that belies their apparent simplicity.
The first tale is a recasting of ‘The Little Mermaid’ called ‘The Daughter Cells’.
A number of the basic assumptions of fairy tales take an immediate battering, something that is kept up throughout The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror.
Throughout ‘The Daughter Cells’ we are cautioned that the characters are not exactly female.
Daniel Lavery also stresses that their community under the sea has an entirely different approach to ownership and stewardship of natural resources.
The different feel that contrasts the story with the traditional forms of ‘The Little Mermaid’ continues when the central character emerges up on the surface.
She is already disappointed by her human lover the prince’s inability to breathe under water.
This disappointment gains pace and, when the prince finds a bride, our heroine isn’t sufficiently concerned to stop the wedding.
She does, however, wreak a wonderful vengeance on them both.
This utterly, and gloriously, negates one of the inflexible rules of many fairy tales: the happy ending represented by marriage.
In a story called ‘The Thankless Child’ that is inspired by Cinderella, Paul has little or no reason to be grateful to her godmother, who is controlling and emotionally demanding.
The toxic nature of their relationship is demonstrated via the godmother’s dominance of Paul’s father and stepmother.
At least the trope of the evil stepmother is avoided!
Marriage lies at the heart of ‘The Thankless Child’, but the concept is no easy escape from an abusive family in this story.
Paul will not be rescued by her new husband, and the arrival of a godmother to live with the couple indicates that the cycle of toxicity may not be broken.
‘The Thankless Child’ also presents gender fluidity and an uncertainty over domestic roles that reflects our world today.
Paul and her two stepsisters ruminate over what marriage will mean: who will be the husband and who will be the wife? These roles (and titles) emerge during the relationship rather than being assumed at the outset based on assigned gender.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror is a wonderful collection. It challenges our very deeply engrained assumptions about society and identity, which fairy tales over many centuries have reinforced in traditional ways that we today feel ill-inclined to accept without question.
The tales are highly entertaining, and there is plenty of gentle humour in all of them.
Thank you for reading my review.
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