- The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg (now Daniel Ortberg)
- Published March 2018
- Holt McDougal
The Merry Spinster is a delightful look at the fairy tales we grew up hearing and loving. Everyone lives happily ever after. All of the women find themselves comfortably ensconced in marriage with a brooding and passive but fabulously wealthy prince.
Wait, scratch that…I meant to say The Merry Spinster is NOT a delightful look at your most beloved fairy tales.
The book is a collection of fairy tales and fables (think the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen as opposed to Disney) and reimagines them in a darker, more sinister light.
It takes those many-times-told stories of our childhood such as The Little Mermaid and The Velveteen Rabbit (click these links to read them free at Project Gutenberg), puts a butcher knife in the main characters’ hands, and lets them stab their way through to bloodily disparate endings. Happily ever after is certainly in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t always happen on a wedding aisle.
Keep in mind, Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm were, well, grim to begin with. With tales of child-abandoning fathers, child-eating witches, and suicidal mermaids, their stories serve as warnings against falling for the wrong guy and being born to the wrong parent (yes, I know that’s absurd).
Part of the fun of The Merry Spinster is matching the book’s story to the fable to figure out what it’s emulating. I thought I was familiar with the source stories, but was at a loss to identify a couple of them, namely the one with the ill-fated couple and the aggressively insecure husband to be who hates his fiance’s relationship with her odd friend. Any ideas on which one that was?
The fables here match the same writing style and formality of the time period of the fables when they were originally written. They’re not modern retellings with modern vernacular. All of these stories could still exist in their original time periods. Some readers may find this type of writing (and slower-burn reading) a bit frustrating. Stick with it. On many of these stories, it’s worth the payoff.
Overall, The Merry Spinster offers an interesting and strangely satisfying look at fables. Dare I say, some of these have better endings than the originals.
Let’s talk about it more! Watch this video book review of The Merry Spinster on my Read Remark YouTube channel.
I was fortunate to receive an advance reader copy of The Merry Spinster courtesy of NetGalley and publisher Holt McDougal. For more info on NetGalley, check out my video on how to read books for free and cheap.