Mothers Grimm – Danielle Wood

Mothers Grimm – Danielle Wood

Title: Mothers Grimm
Author: Danielle Wood
Genre: Modern/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Allen&Unwin
Publication Date: 1st September 2014
Pages: 212
Rating: 4/5 stars

mothers grimm

You make deals with God. You make deals with the Devil. You’re not fussy. But as a wise man once said: ‘It’s the saying you don’t care what you get what gets you jiggered.’ So you say it, and you’re jiggered, but what you give birth to is a hedgehog. It’s prickly and its cry is a noise so terrible that you wish someone would scrape fingernails on a blackboard to give you some relief.

In a fairytale, the only good mother is six feet under. All the others are bad news.

A fairytale mother will exchange her first-born child for a handful of leafy greens. And if times get tough, she’ll walk her babes into the woods and leave them there.

But mothers of today do no such things? Do they?

In this collection of heartbreakingly honest stories, the mothers of the Brothers Grimm are brought – with wit, subversiveness and lyrical prose – into the here and now.

Danielle Wood turns four fairytales on their heads and makes them exquisitely her own.

This book wasn’t at all what I expected. I had been coveting it since reading its blurb and prologue online and was fortunate enough to win a copy in a Goodreads First Reads competition.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected but I had hoped for interpretations closer to the fairytale stories I know so well. There were only very loose links to the Grimm tales.

It is a collection of four short stories – Lettuce (Rapunzel), Cottage (Hansel and Gretel), Sleep (Sleeping Beauty) and Nag (The Goose Girl)- plus the prologue. In all, the writing style is absolutely delightful. It is like listening to someone with a soft, lilting voice explain deep philosophy to you. You float along on this sea of prose with absolute ease. It is a joy to read.

The prologue is delicious – that’s the only word that properly describes this almost but not quite gossipy chapter. It depicts (with a slightly jealous tone) the ‘good mother’ whom women strive to be but feel they cannot live up to. If I can urge you to read any part of this book, this is what stuck with me the most. And I am still thinking about it more than all the other stories.

I believe that my biggest problem with this book is that I do not have the experience as a mother to truly relate to the subjects broached by Wood. It looks at the relationships between mothers-to-be, the guilt that comes from abandoning one’s children at childcare, and the overwhelming difficulties that come with being a first time mother. While the fourth story, ‘Nag’, loosely based on ‘The Goose Girl’, pertains to mother-daughter relationships, a topic with which I am familiar, I do not know the fairytale well enough to connect properly to Wood’s short story.

It is a book I would love to revisit in ten or fifteen years, after I have had children of my own and it will be interesting to see how my opinions of it change. For all the mothers out there, I recommend it highly. The prose itself was beautiful enough to engage me but I think the additional dimension of experience would do wonders to my reading of the text.

Have any of you ever read a book which you think will hold more value for you in the future than it does now?

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