Poison by Sarah Pinborough

a review by Ant, in the genre(s) Fantasy. Book published by Gollancz in April 2013

Poison is an enchanting adult take on the classic fairy tale Snow White. With an appealing freshness and confident, unique voice of the author its a tale that will leave you eager for more.

Everyone knows the story of Snow White and Poison is instantly recognisable from that childhood fable and yet not only has the author created an adult version, she has done so in such a way that this one feels like the original; with a brothers Grimm edge that makes it seem like the childrens version has been taken from this book and not the other way round. The quality of the writing is superb, right from the start the book draws you in and keeps you entranced right to the end. I read the whole thing in a single sitting and while it is a slim volume (coming in at only 208 pages) there is not a single word of wasted space, like a book that's been on a strict weight-loss program and what's left is as fit as can be.

Most fairytale stories that are re-written for the adult come across as either a bit twee or overly dark and violent, like they have to offset the original cute and innocence with "adult" themes of sex and violence. The result is often over the top or just plain silly but Pinborough manages to create something that has these elements in abundance and yet feels mature, without gratuitousness (which helps) and with a level of intelligence that prevents the reader feeling patronised.

I just loved the directions the story takes, everything is recognisable as snow white and yet the differences somehow highlight the story, injected with bags of atmosphere and believable characters. While the actual setting is kept traditional the characters themselves are much more modern interpretations; I can imagine many will again make comparison to the original "brothers grimm" tales however the authors exploration of fairy tales from a modern perspective (such as the exploration of misogyny a "traditional" tale often introduces) makes such comparison unfair. The inherent impropriety and denigration of women is explored and highlighted as every bit the evil than the wicked step-mother is. The character of Snow White is also given a more modern slant, retaining a wholesome innocence while at the same time joining the dwarves for a pint or four in the pub and riding off into the woods on a whim in outfits that a traditional "princess" wouldn't be seen frozen for a thousand years in.

The result is a clever, entertaining story by an even cleverer writer, superb feisty fiction.

Written on Tuesday 16th July 2013 by .

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Poison, a novel by Sarah Pinborough

Book Details

  • Poison
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • ISBN: 9780575092976
  • Published:
  • Pages: 208
  • Format reviewed: Hardback
  • Review date: July, 2013
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: N/A