Sourdough and Other Stories, by Angela Slatter
When we were children, if we have been lucky, our parents and grandparents have been reading or telling us bedtime stories, mostly fairy tales. As adults, we still like to read (or listening to) stories , which are the substance of what we call “fiction”. Fiction has many faces, encompasses different genres, one of which is defined “fantasy”.
Fantasy (the genre most closely related to the literary worlds of our childhood) sometimes takes the shape of a classical fairy tale, a subgenre unfortunately seldom revisited by contemporary writers.
Angela Slatter, the author of the present Tartarus Press collection, is an Australian writer who creates wonderful fairy tales for grownups, crafting exquisite , colourful stories featuring vivid characters and mesmerizing plots embellished by an evocative, elegant prose.
To say that she’s a born storyteller is an understatement but to label her narrative style with a proper adjective is a difficult task.
There are so many excellent tales in the volume that commenting upon all of them in detail would be tiresome, but some stories deserve a special mention such as “ The Angel Wood”, an enchanting, powerful tale where pagan traditions betrayed by a young woman are later embraced by her older daughter; “ A Porcelain Soul”, an extraordinary, magical yarn depicting a peculiar art academy where dolls are made and then given a soul; or the outstanding “Lavender and Lychgates”, a perceptive, ghostly piece depicting delicate family matters – (a stillborn child tries to return to exact that motherly love he was never allowed to experience) with an insightful touch.
In the delightful “The Shadow Tree” a dark-skinned nanny endowed with secret powers takes care for good of a couple of mischievous, spoiled royal brats, while in the fascinating “Sister, Sister” a princess is abandoned by her husband for her wicked, inhuman sister, and in the lovely “Sourdough” true love triumphs over witchcraft.
“The Story of Ink” and its sequel “Lost Things” are vivid gothic tales of a very dark nature.
“Dibblespin” is a cruel story of lycanthropy, but also of family ties and missing affection, while “Gallowberries” and “Ash” are tales of terrible beauty about the solitude and the power of witchcraft.
“A Good Husband” provides the breathtaking portrait of a supernatural creature living in a pool and describes how she relieves a poor, disfigured girl from her desperate love feelings.
In short, Slatter’s fairy tales have a ravishing quality which leaves the reader totally spellbound by their elegance and imaginative power.