cover image Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins

Emma Donoghue. Harper Teen, $15.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027575-4

In this stylized, lyrical collection of revisionist fairy tales, Cinderella falls in love with her fairy godmother, and Gretel remains loyal to the witch in the gingerbread house, who planned to skin Hansel like a rabbit only because of his repeated attempts to rape her. In the same vein as Robert Coover's horrific fairy stories, Donoghue (Hood) brings the sexual violence beneath many classic tales to the surface. Her viewpoint is overtly feminist, at times to the point of predictability, and the book gets off to a slow start. But the book gains momentum, and an innovative, almost musical structure lends coherence. The stories are interwoven: each one ends with the narrator asking another heroine, ""Who were you before...?"" Beauty's Beast, for example, was once Snow White. Bonds between women are affirmed as an alternative to shallow, handsome princes; as often as not, the bonds turn sexual (e.g., the Beast beloved by Beauty turns out to be a woman). Sophisticated teenagers (and adults too) will be mesmerized by the powerful voices and intricate structure, while the lesbian endings promise controversy. Ages 12-up. (May)