Snow White Learns Witchcraft: Stories and Poems

By Theodora Goss

Rating: 4 stars

I picked this collection up after reading the Athena Club books by the same author, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This collection has a very different feel to it. While the Athena Club is set in Victorian London, these are retellings and reinterpretations of fairy tales, bringing the women in them to the fore.

Some worked better than others for me, and there were some that I enjoyed, but don’t know the underlying story. Goss is originally from Hungary, and I think several Eastern European tales or variants made their way in to the collection (for example, there were several stories referring to the bear’s wife, but my google-fu failed me on that one).

I often have trouble with poetry, but I’m pleased that the poetry presented here isn’t as dense as some and was often quite prose-like, so I was able to read it almost like a prose story. Of the stories, I think I enjoyed Blanchefleur the best. Again, I’m not sure I recognise the specific story that it came from, but it had the structure and feel of a fairy tale. And it was a love story, which I’m always a sucker for. The Other Thea is a lovely story about wholeness and belonging; while A Country Called Winter about a refugee who makes startling discoveries about her family and her home.

I enjoyed this collection a lot and will certainly look out for more of Goss’s short fiction (as well, of course, as the next ‘Athena Club’ book!)

Book details

Publisher: Mythic Delirium Books
Year of publication: 2017

Farmer Giles of Ham/The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

By J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: 3 stars

This volume collects two of J. R. R. Tolkien’s short books:  Farmer Giles of Ham and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. I’ve already read the latter, and have reviewed it under another edition here, so I’ll concentrate on the former here. This is a fairly short story, aimed at a younger audience, about the titular Farmer Giles and how an encounter with a giant led to a series of increasingly heroic events. Even in this short volume, Tolkien can’t resist epic world-building, with the story being a foundation myth for something else (although set in what would become England, and not connected to Middle-Earth at all).

There are some lovely medieval-style “illuminated” illustrations to go along with the story (artist not credited in my edition) which really add to the atmosphere. I can’t say the same about the illustrations with The Adventures of Tom Bombadil though. Those are pixelated and low resolution, which is a shame because the originals (in colour in my other copy) are lovely.

Book details

ISBN: 9780048231253
Publisher: George Allen & Unwin
Year of publication: 1949


By Unknown

Rating: 4 stars

I don’t really know what to make of this book. I’m not usually very good with poetry but I definitely found Heaney’s translation very readable (moreso than the introduction at times). I didn’t read it in any special way, but just as if it were prose, if somewhat slower than I normally would. Maybe this means I didn’t get the most out of it, as the story was certainly pretty simplistic, with the titular hero carrying out three great feats of bravery and heroism before meeting his ultimate doom.

I did enjoy some of the language, and I can definitely see the influence that it had on Tolkien, but ultimately, I didn’t find it particularly extraordinary. Maybe it would be better read aloud or in audio book form.

Book details

ISBN: 9780571203765
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year of publication: 975

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Rating: 4 stars

I’m not very good with poetry so I was a bit wary when I approached this short volume, but the Rime itself was remarkably easy to read. It was full of beautiful and evocative imagery without having the density of language that makes poetry so difficult for me.

I can’t say the same about the other poems included in this volume. I don’t really think I understood any of them, although both Kubla Khan and Dejection: An Ode had some great images.

Book details

ISBN: 9780785823407
Publisher: Chartwell Books
Year of publication: 1798

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

By Omar Khayyám

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve never really been a poetry person, and I found this short book of 75 quatrains very difficult. I still don’t think I understood a lot of it, but the general theme seemed to be about growing old and the wisdom of age. And getting pished (a fine word, used in the book itself 😉 ).

The rhyming scheme was also rather odd: the first two lines rhymed, the third didn’t and the fourth rhymed with the first two. I found it fairly difficult to follow at times, but at others, it was fine. There were also a couple of places where it was obvious that Fitzgerald was playing with language but my own weakness there held me back from understanding properly (particularly using the differences between ‘whence’ and ‘hence’ and ‘whither’ and ‘hither’).

To be honest, I really don’t think I got an awful lot out of this book.

Book details

ISBN: 9781434696656
Publisher: BiblioBazaar
Year of publication: 1859

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