Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Merry Spinster [review]


The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
To be published by Holt McDougal on March 13, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg: 
cw: domestic abuse,

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Goodreads | IndieBound 

From [Daniel] Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from [his] beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, “The Merry Spinster” takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and [his] best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg’s boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg’s oeuvre will delight in [his] unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

I know that retellings are getting old for some people, but Daniel really does a magnificent job with this collection. As with any short story compilation, some fell a little short for me, but overall I was highly impressed with what he had done. All of the stories here are inspired by “fairytales” of some kind, but they aren’t necessarily what you’ll be expecting. They’re the perfect blend of creepy and thoughtful.

“Someday, I think,” she said, her voice muffled under the tub, “I would like to meet someone I have not caused any pain.”

My rating for each story:

The Daughter Cells ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Thankless Child ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Fear Not: An Incident Log ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Six Boy-Coffins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Rabbit ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Merry Spinster ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Wedding Party ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad ⭐️⭐️
Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Frog’s Princess ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

She was beginning to learn the danger of silence, and that someone who wishes to hear a yes will not go out of his way to listen for a no.

In total, these scores averaged out to 3.36, which I’ve rounded up to a 3.5. I thought they were very well-written, and was particularly excited to see a lot of gender non-conformity in the stories. Gendered pronouns and titles were essentially meaningless in some of the stories, which was an interesting and much appreciated route to take. I’d definitely recommend this collection to anyone interested.

She was reluctant to offer any of her children, even Beauty, to something so monstrous and polite but she was even more reluctant to be shot, and mothers have given their children to monsters before.

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(Cover and blurb [pronouns edited by me] courtesy of Goodreads.)

4 thoughts on “The Merry Spinster [review]”

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