When a book is as highly lauded as Graham Joyce’s Some Kind Of Fairytale it’s difficult to know whether I’ve missed something, or whether it’s a case of Emperor’s New Clothes. I was deeply underwhelmed by this novel.
Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the novel that work well. The impact on Tara’s family of her return from a 20 year absence seemingly unchanged and appearing no older was drawn out in a convincing way. Her sudden disappearance had a catastrophic impact on her family relationships and her boyfriend had lived under the shadow of the suspicion of her murder, destroying friendships. Tara’s return exposes those scars and enables healing to start to begin. The suspicion of her story of spending six months with the fairies was highly convincing, as was Tara’s shock at the changes in her world and the ageing of her parents.
But there are several jarring points for me that got in the way of enjoying this book. The first was the lengthy sections of psychiatrist’s report. In examining the place and meaning of fairytale and its relationship to human psychology. This felt rather like Joyce was telling us how to read and interpret his work, rather than leaving it to the reader. I don’t think those sections added anything to the work and it would have been improved by omitting them.
The novel also expresses some very regressive attitudes about female sexuality that amounted to slut-shaming. The fairyland where Tara spends six months is a sexually promiscuous one, with both men and women being enthusiastic participants. This culture of openly sexual behaviour and open relationships is something Tara frowns upon, yet she lays the blame solely at the door of the women. it is only the women. Some of this may reflect her own life experiences, but I was left with the distinct sense that these were the author’s views as well.
I was also not convinced by the changes in Tara’s character at the end of the novel. Without spoiling the events of the novel, I wasn’t convinced that she would become the person we see in the final sequence in the psychiatrist’s office, nor by the choice she makes. Neither felt consistent with the presentation of her character or her emotional journey in the earlier parts of the book.
Add those flaws to a very predictable plot and I just couldn’t enjoy it.
GoodReads rating: 2*