cover image The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories

The Monkey's Wedding and Other Stories

Joan Aiken. Small Beer (Consortium, dist.), $24 (200p) ISBN 978-1-9315-2074-4

Focusing largely on prolific British fictionist Aiken's early works from the late 1950s and early 1960s, this imaginative posthumous collection includes among others six never before published short stories and two originally published under a pseudonym. "Honeymaroon" chronicles the adventures of a castaway typist who lands on an island inhabited by sentient mice; "Girl in a Whirl" features a motorcycle-riding, man-hating, daredevil albinoess; "Octopi in the Sky" follows a man haunted by images of cephalopods; and in "A Mermaid Too Many," a sailor's exotic present for his lover%E2%80%93a mermaid in a bottle%E2%80%93has unforeseen consequences. The charm and unrestrained quality of Aiken's early stories are put into stark perspective by an essay from her daughter Lizza, who offers up glimpses into a particularly difficult period in her mother's life: Shortly after the end of WWII, widowed and homeless with two young children, Aiken made the bold decision to support herself and her family by writing. Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection%E2%80%93like the mermaid in a bottle%E2%80%93is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages. (Apr.)