Book Review: Grimm’s Fairy Stories

by Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm

Taken from the East European oral tradition, and first published in 1812, these stories were originally collated and published in Germany by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Although softened to appease Christian sensibilities of the day, this compilation still became a sort of cult horror anthology for children. Indeed, returning to these gruesome little tales as an adult, I can see that they are indeed ‘grim’, and make curious bedtime reading.

Even allowing for the Grimm brothers sanitisation of the stories, they remain far removed from Disney’s cinematic versions of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and all the other fluffy, uplifting animations so popular with modern movie-goers. Here, incest, cruelty, starvation, torture and violent death vie for space with the happily ever afters. (Decapitated gee-gee anyone?)

Thankfully my seven-year-old self was far less squeamish, and I dwelt not at all on the many sadistic happenings, but simply enjoyed reading about talking bears, heroic giant-slayers and sharp-witted wolves in red bonnets. In short, I was a typical child reader.

NB I don’t wish to appear a pedant, but surely the title, Grimm’s Fairy Stories, is grammatically incorrect. Shouldn’t it be Grimms’ Fairy Stories? I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

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Book Review: Nightmare Abbey

by Thomas Love Peacock

I must begin by confessing that I had never heard of Thomas Love Peacock or his 1818 novel Nightmare Abbey until seeing it included at No.9 on the Guardian’s list of 100 Best Novels (compiled by Robert McCrum in 2013). However, in my defence, the accompanying article did describe the author as a “half forgotten minor genius”!

A friend of the great English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and very much a part of the artistic in-crowd, Peacock wrote Nightmare Abbey as an affectionate parody of the romantic movement, and indeed, the greater your knowledge of the literary movers and shakers of this period, the more likely you are to fully appreciate his humour.

Nevertheless, though the reader’s enjoyment will undoubtedly be enhanced by at least some prior understanding of Regency high-culture and philosophy, it is not essential to enjoying this short, comic novel. I certainly found it a light and amusing read.