Discussion location: Le Truc, independent French restaurant in the Arcadian, which influenced the banding about of “a deep fromage” (a mishearing) throughout dinner.

Chosen by: Ameesha

Reason for choice: Random Googling for “wintery books”. It was a choice between this and Snowdrops, A.D. Miller—also read and enjoyed.

Review:

We came across Graham Joyce rather late in his authorial career—so late in fact that sadly, the author died just before we chose the book, at a mere 59 years old. Some Kind of Fairytale begins on Christmas Day when the Lynch family’s missing daughter Tara returns after a 20-year-absence. Peculiarly, Tara looks the same as when she disappears aged 16 and believes she has only been away for 6 months, having been taken from some local woodland by a fairy named Hiero.

In contrast, Tara’s parents have grown old, her brother Peter is married with children, and her ex-boyfriend Richie has been on a downward spiral since her disappearance. They find it difficult to believe Tara’s explanation for her absence and so send her to see a psychiatrist Dr.Underwood to discover the truth. In short alternating chapters, Tara relays what she insists is an accurate description of her time with the fairies, Underwood writes at times amusing notes on possible explanations, and her family attempt to deal with her return. By the end of the novel, the reader knows the truth (one that I won’t spoil for you here), and the ending is satisfyingly unambiguous.

Despite what could be a hard-going subject, the novel is surprisingly light—a quick and easy read, if not a little short—and is brought to life by believable family dialogue and humour. The result is enjoyable in the way you might feel after watching a two-part BBC drama. Incidentally, or unsurprisingly, a film adaptation is in development (what doesn’t get turned into a film nowadays?!). However, the novel’s “lightness” also leaves it a little unmemorable—failing to leave a lasting impression on most of us. Saying that, it certainly instigated some interesting conversations, in what was one of our longest book clubs ever (or perhaps that was the two courses).

Indeed, the novel raises some interesting topics—of how you would feel if someone you loved disappeared, and how you would react if they returned. In particular, Tara’s family’s reaction to her return is complex and understandable, and Richie’s response to her disappearance is an accurate portrayal of a boyfriend who is accused of murdering his girlfriend.

Joyce’s depiction of the Lynch family is incredibly believable, with the first chapter building up an image of a typical English family’s life. The novel itself feels resoundingly English (or should I say British), and perhaps more striking to us as the author was born just outside Coventry, not far from us, so the novel’s East Midlands setting feels familiar. Moreover, Joyce’s fairies are remnants of Irish folklore, not the typical fairies we have come to know in modern literature and films (cute little Tinkerbells). In contrast, these fairies are beautiful, sex-crazed, violent, and vengeful.

Despite being classed by some as “fantasy”, this novel doesn’t delve deep into the fairy world (some of us would have preferred more of that element, especially of all their knowledge of the universe that we don’t get to share). Others have classified Joyce’s writing as magical realism due to his blend of normal and supernatural. Joyce himself preferred to call his style of writing “Old Peculiar”, in the vein of old English writers of “the weird tale” —writers who Joyce has now joined in the realms of English literature.

“Maybe we all go away with the fairies and we just don’t know”, Rachael concluded with. Maybe Joyce isn’t really gone, but is just away with the fairies.

Overall score: 7/10

This is my (Ameesha’s) final book review as I am off to see the world (not to spend time with the fairies, in case you wondered) so I am handing over the baton, or book as it were, to Rachael.

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