Read Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue Online


Thirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances--sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characterThirteen tales are unspun from the deeply familiar, and woven anew into a collection of fairy tales that wind back through time. Acclaimed Irish author Emma Donoghue reveals heroines young and old in unexpected alliances--sometimes treacherous, sometimes erotic, but always courageous. Told with luminous voices that shimmer with sensuality and truth, these age-old characters shed their antiquated cloaks to travel a seductive new landscape, radiantly transformed. Cinderella forsakes the handsome prince and runs off with the fairy godmother; Beauty discovers the Beast behind the mask is not so very different from the face she sees in the mirror; Snow White is awakened from slumber by the bittersweet fruit of an unnamed desire. Acclaimed writer Emma Donoghue spins new tales out of old in a magical web of thirteen interconnected stories about power and transformation and choosing one's own path in the world. In these fairy tales, women young and old tell their own stories of love and hate, honor and revenge, passion and deception. Using the intricate patterns and oral rhythms of traditional fairy tales, Emma Donoghue wraps age-old characters in a dazzling new skin. 2000 List of Popular Paperbacks for YA...

Title : Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins
Author :
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ISBN : 9780060275761
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 228 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins Reviews

  • Amalia Gavea
    2019-03-03 02:33

    ‘’There are some tales not for telling, whether because they are too long, too precious, too laughable, too painful, too easy to need telling or too hard to explain.’’I feel that this quote describes the essence of Donoghue's book in a poignant and clear way. This isn’t a collection of short stories in the traditional sense of the word. It is a series of tales closely linked to each other. The stories of women who loved, yearned, who were hurt by others, who sought revenge, justice, comfort. Each story is narrated by a woman to the female protagonist of the previous tale and the legends pass from one woman to another. If nothing else, this shows that those we have come to regard as the ‘’good’’ or the ‘’bad’’ characters of a tale are not very different from each other.If you read my reviews, you’ll notice that Emma Donoghue is a writer I swear by. I may sound as a fangirl, but she can do no wrong in my book. Everything I’ve read of her has left me speechless, has moved me beyond words. Her books are in my all-time top 10 and I hereby unashamedly admit I would read her shopping list. She is on a pedestal, along with Jeanette Winterson, Hannah Kent and a few selected others whose books I’d read even if they’d come without front cover, title or synopsis. ‘’Kissing the Witch’’ is a book that contains the best retellings of the most well- known and beloved fairy tales of our childhood. Yes, in Donoghue’s hands a story about 4-5 pages at most becomes better than major retellings struggling to come through out of an entire book of normal length. This is why there are authors who create sentences that enclose the world. The world Donoghue has chosen is the one of fairy tales passed down from generation to generation.Each story bears the title ‘’The Kiss of…’’. I found the choice of the word ‘’kiss’’ particularly interesting. A kiss is an act of tenderness, affection and love. However, the kiss also carries the connotation of betrayal and treachery, bringing to mind Jesus’ betrayal by Judas with a kiss. So,a kiss is a highly ambiguous symbol. In the book, there are many ‘’kisses’’. The kiss of the Bird, the Rose (a beautiful reimagining of ‘’Beauty and the Beast’’), the Apple, the Handkerchief, the Hair, the Brother, the Spinster, the Skin (a tale as disturbing and dark as it is beautiful), the Needle, the Voice. The story named simply ‘’The Kiss’’ brings us full circle.Cinderella, Beauty, Aurora, the Goose Girl, the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, all the fairytales we grew up with are present in a volume that talks about Otherness and Alienation. Donoghue uses the legends of the past to show how society transformed women who refused to follow the norms and the rules of patriarchy into witches, monsters, creatures that must be exiled in order not to defile the others and, especially, the younger women. Women who love women and were regarded as ‘’anomalies of nature’’, women who sought justice and revenge, equal opportunities to power and respect for their abilities, women who could heal and help others were brought to scorn, to persecution and, eventually, to a pyre or a noose because they were deemed too dangerous to the foundations of a world built by narrow mindedness and utter lack of education.The way Donoghue writes is nothing short of astonishing. When I read one of her books, I recognise her voice in the text and yet, each one of her works is so different and so unique. ‘’Kissing the Witch’’ falls into so many categories. Fantasy, Fairytales, LGBT Literature, Feminism. These are not just retellings of the stories of princesses and witches. There are themes under the allegories relevant to the discrepancies against women in the past and in the present. Because, let’s face it. For some people, we’ll never stop being the ‘’evil witches’’ of their own little stories. Of course, they probably don’t know that many of us would carry the title proudly knowing its true meaning…‘’This is the story you asked for. I leave it in your mouth.’’

  • Rachel
    2019-03-12 03:40

    Frustratingly simplistic. These are easy reversals of fairy tales, and stand or fall based entirely on the reader's agreement with the reversal, rather than as stories on their own. I like the idea of lesbian friendly fairy tales - I, for one, am someone who always wanted to kiss the witch, as the title proclaims - but there must be a way of telling those stories without leeching all the power of the original. Threat is powerful - the danger and ugliness of fairy tales are why they have stayed with us so long. If all the witches and the stepmothers are good, if all Rapunzel wants is to stay in her tower and love her foster-mother, what is the story about? These versions too often felt that they were going for the easy way, switching the fairy tales simply to make all the female characters amicable to one another. I would like romantic love between women which is a little more hard-won, not the twist ending that these stories made it. And if Snow White is going to stay with the stepmother who did threaten to kill her, I'd like a little more of the emotional complexity behind that decision.I'm so hard on these stories partly because they came so near to being something that I would love. And I very much wanted to love them, but in the end they were just too straightforward, their prose affected rather than organic, each ending on the same emotional note. And there are better fairy tale rewrites out there - try the terribly under-appreciated Donna Jo Napoli, who is all about emotional complexity.

  • Stef Rozitis
    2019-03-08 21:45

    Out of all the (so far 72) books I have read this year, this one was DEFINITELY my favourite, and yet I know it won't be for everyone. It's a group of short stories, familiar fairy tales rewritten to be very feminist, somewhat queer (in the broad sense) and to link together so that each story is the story of one of the characters in it who interacts with another character and at the end of each story the next character is asked to tell their story.The magic in the story is sort of made natural and earthy instead of as fantastical. These are stories of women's relationships of love, hate, rivalry, betrayal, sisterhood. Men figure as fathers, brothers, love or lust-objects and frequently weak or betraying side-characters.The writing is very calm and deceptively simple- there is just enough description but not self-indulgent waffling. There are some sex scenes but they are written obliquely rather than graphically. The stories tantalise because at the end of each I wanted more detail and follow up for characters I had bonded with but the book's progress was always on to another story. I half-hoped the circle would be completed at the end but even though the stories link in a chain each is a tantalising stand-alone.But although there are details left not coloured in (like how did a woman in one of the stories become a horse? That never gets explained) overall each story is satisfying whether it is sad or romantic- there is hardship and conflict and the difficulties of social class and personal flaws in each heroine but the stories overall are about strength, courage, resourcefulness and redemtion each in its own way.I think my favourite one was the cottage, because it took the earliest story I can remember hearing from my parents and changed it beyond recognition. Also because the characters in it were morally complex...though that is true for the whole book. The pace of the stories may be simple but the "bad guys" are not really bad they each have a place in society that constructs who they are as do our heroines. The balance between what society makes each character and how they fight to define themselves over-against social determinism is part of what I loved.And for me (here's the part not everyone will like) I like women loving women in a story...and there is plenty of that. While sex is not absent, the focus is on intimacy, comfort, nurture and friendship. As I prefer it. I don't think it's one you'd try to stop your kids reading.

  • Zen
    2019-03-12 01:43

    "Climbing to the witch's cave one day, / I called out, / Who were you / before you came to live here?/ And she said, / Will I tell you my own story? / It is a tale of a kiss."Do you ever find a book and just know it's going to be everything you love in the world? Only you can't read it right away because it's not the right time, or you're not in the right mood, and you want everything to be perfect. What if you're wrong about it and it doesn't live up to your expectations? How will you find another story to fill the void? So it sits on your shelf or at the back of your mind, consciously overlooked, patiently waiting for you to get your shit together and give it a read."In the orchard, I asked, / Who were you / before you married my father? / And she said, / Will I tell you my own story? / It is a tale of a handkerchief."Kissing the Witch was like that for me. I love kisses! I love witches! I love stories about ladies, and lady relationships, and lady rivalries tempered with empathy and an understanding of both sides! I love retellings of fairy tales, especially when they come in collections of short stories! Plus I already knew that I liked Emma Donoghue's writing quite a lot, so with all of that going for it, naturally this book called out to me. And so I bought it. And so I hesitated."I stumbled along the bridge, caught her / sleeve and asked, / Who were you / before you became Little Sister? / And she said, Tell you story? / Tale of cottage."Luckily for me, Kissing the Witch was all I wanted it to be and more! In this collection, thirteen reworked fairy tales are linked by a common thread of each woman being asked by another who they were before. Before they became witches, stepmothers, spinsters, beasts or crones, they were princesses — maids — sisters — daughters — simply girls with their own familiar stories. The thread winds back through generations of storytelling, ending with the origin of the kiss-seeking witch herself. Each heroine makes her own decisions. Each woman takes her classic story into her own hands, and takes responsibility for the things she's done. Most importantly, each one listens to the other and to herself: an orphaned princess hears out her stepmother; an imprisoned queen asks after the past life of a rescued bird; a Cinderella runs from the ball not because it's midnight, but because her fairy saviour is far more beautiful and interesting than her besotted prince. Gathering my thoughts, I wonder, who was I before I opened this book? And I say, Will I tell you my own story? It is the tale of a market saturated with re-imagined fairy tales billing themselves as original and groundbreaking, when in fact some of the best such stories are already out there. Gail Carson Levine was my favourite as a kid. The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold fundamentally affected me when I read it in my teens. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is one of my all-time favourites, period. And now I can firmly place Kissing the Witch on the same pedestal in my heart. It was wonderful and thoughtful and brilliant and poetic and wise, and I just want to read it again and again.

  • Jackikellum
    2019-03-21 04:42

    At first glance, Kissing the Witch appears to be a simple anthology of fairy-like tales. Upon deeper reading, it becomes clear that the separate stories are fragments—or different points of viewing one continuous thread. The way that the fragments are woven together is brilliant.Early, the reader is aware that there are continual suggestions of tales that he/she has heard since childhood. Hints are dropped here and there; and they glimmer beneath the surface of the text. The images are repeatedly revisited; and the reader is invited to gather them and piece them into any of several possible interpretations.Reading the book is like following behind Hansel and Gretel -- picking up the strewn clues and seeking the the messages hidden along the paths. The plot twists and turns at a dizzying rate of speed, weaving an intricate and passionate tapestry that celebrates and empowers woman in her universal quest to know and befriend all of the complex voices within herself.

  • BrokenTune
    2019-03-03 21:29

    "Climbing to the witch’s cave one day, I called out,Who were youbefore you came to live here?And she said, Will I tell you my own story?It is a tale of a kiss."I had heard of Emma Donoghue mostly because people kept talking about her novel Room. This, however, was the first encounter I have had with her writing. Kissing the Witch is a clever little book that takes well known fairy tales and tells them from the perspective of different women involved in the stories. Each story is then linked through the characters who each tell their own story.It's a lovely structure and the book made for captivating reading. After all, Donoghue is a great story-teller. However, if we criticise that fairy tales are in need of modernisation because of the dated stereotypes and gender inequality, then Donoghue's approach is equally flawed. It's an entertaining read but hardly any of the male characters are portrayed as decent human beings. It just doesn't do to try and fight fire with fire - or in this case sexism with sexism. 2.5* really but not rounding up.

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-02-27 03:35

    Donoghue combines self-righteous messages with blatantly didactic interior monologues which can only appeal to those already believing everything she says. She spurs no thought which was not already there, and in writing a book which never aspired to art, has done what your average writer does: increase the general volume of words in print, and nothing more. A string of random monkey-typed characters would have aided mankind as well.

  • Holly
    2019-02-26 02:16

    I picked this up because Kirsty Logan of The Gracekeepers said that it was very influential for her. These are fairytale retellings with a feminist twist. They’re also stacked like Russian dolls, so at the end of one retelling you’ll have the ‘villain’ tell their backstory, and the witch of one tale becomes the heroine of the next. Your favourite fairy tale will probably be in here. There’s a Little Mermaid retelling which was probably my favourite.

  • Marquise
    2019-02-23 04:45

    Mmm... A complete failure when it comes to grabbing and maintaining my attention, and I can't give even bonus points for creativity because, although the author does try, she didn't really surprise me with any of the retellings here.

  • Wealhtheow
    2019-03-03 03:36

    The book begins with "The Tale of the Shoe," told by Cinderella. Her fairy godmother gives her everything she needs to dance with a prince--but in the end, she realizes she'd rather have the fairy godmother. At Cinderella's urging, the godmother tells her own story, which prompts the next story, and so on. Each short tale is inspired by a fairy tale; each is told by a woman (although some have become birds and horses and witches since then). Some are more revolutionary than ohers: Hansel and Gretel's is great, but Donkeyskin's is almost the same as the original. Donkeyskin's tale is also part of the problem, because the ending of each of these is just a bit too happy for me. Each princess and serving girl comes to contentment in the end, generally with each other. I'd have liked to see a little more dialog and negotiation between each pair (and some pairings are a bit too cross-generational for me, like Snow White and her stepmother, or Rapunzel and her adopted mother), but ah well. It's still a nice change from usual trope in which being queer means you die or go mad. Donoghue's descriptions are sublime, but don't overtake her stories. Probably my favorite of them all is "The Tale of the Kiss," told by the witch from the Little Mermaid story. I love the idea of magic as a social construct!

  • Liz Janet
    2019-03-03 23:45

    If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be clever. “Change for your own sake, if you must, not for what you imagine another will ask of you.” These are considered fairytale re-tellings with a feminist twist, but the best part is that they are all connected as a woman asks the other who they were "before", and together they make a novel that leaves you begging for more.They were girls, princesses, innocent or not so, all before they became witches, stepmothers, crones. These stories speak of their rivalries, loves, endurance, relationships, how everything amounts to who we are and what we do, a fight against perfection, betrayal, hate.“There are some tales not for telling, whether because they are too long, too precious, too laughable, too painful, too easy to need telling or too hard to explain. After all, after years and travels my secrets are all I have left to chew on in the night.”

  • Juliet
    2019-03-23 03:16

    Kissing the Witch is a quirky collection with the sub-title 'Old Tales in New Skins' - it contains thirteen re-imagined fairy tales by Irish writer Emma Donoghue. Donoghue's publishing credits include a non-fiction book on lesbian culture, and a lesbian sensibility is evident in this collection. Gay readers should especially enjoy this twist on some of the traditional 'boy meets girl' fairy tales.As a long-time student and lover of traditional stories, I found Kissing the Witch beautifully crafted and highly entertaining. I enjoyed the way Donoghue used a traditional storytellng style to present the reader with something fresh and new, yet as wise as the ancient tales that were its inspiration. Highly recommended for anyone who loves fairy tales and can appreciate an imaginative take on traditional material.

  • Nikki
    2019-03-21 03:26

    I've wanted to read this for ages, so when I had insomnia last night seemed like a good time. This book is a series of interlinked, usually traditional, fairytales, featuring the voices of women trapped within them -- sometimes with lesbian relationships, sometimes just (just!) the complicated relationships between women. For me, it felt a little flimsy, maybe not quite as magical as I'd hoped, but overall it was enjoyable. Mostly, I wished it was longer, that there was more of it. I think I enjoyed the Little Goose Girl story the most.

  • Elaine
    2019-02-27 20:22

    Considering I read this in one sitting I definetly have to rate this a solid 4 stars. I haven't read many short stories. I believe Neil Gaimans Fragile Things makes up the entire list of short story collections I have read in their entirety. I'm not a huge fan of fairy tales and I really only enjoy the story of Beauty and the Beast. I believe that a reader who is very familiar with fairy tale lore will receive even greater enjoyment from this book then I did.I did enjoy each story equally and did not find them to be horrifying or particularly magical. Each story had it's own particular brand of darkness and bits of magic was present in each individual story. I guess I prefer my magic to be more earthy and light. Less curses and more herbs! I was very pleased to realize that each chapter led up to the next. However, I was a bit disappointed by the time gaps. Most of the stories begin in childhood and take the reader into what I assume is early adulthood or late teens for the characters. But, when you meet the character in the previous chapter many years have past between the stories. I guess that's relatively common in short stories.I will definelty have to read this again as I cannot remember how the characters are connected from one chapter to the next. The stories have become a bit muddled but it's probably due to the speed in which I read devoured this selection. All in all it's a pretty impressive little book!

  • Cat
    2019-03-08 23:27

    At first, I felt like this book was appealing but super derivative. Inspired by some of the same feminist motives as Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Donoghue puts a new twist on familiar fairy tales. While her lyrical narration and playful recharacterization were immediately appealing, I found the sameness of the revisions somewhat pat. Yes, it always turns out that the evil witch is just a reviled woman; patriarchal culture too often condemns women for being alone, unattractive, powerful, wise. Yes, it always turns out that two women from the fairy tales fall in love with each other or choose to live together instead of choosing the heteronormative "happily ever after option"; the heterosexual triangle insisting that property (in the form of female bodies) must be passed from king-father to prince-son can be powerfully subverted by lesbian desire and homosocial domesticity. But I was finding those two revisions predictable, as much as I liked them in principle.Then, somehow, the book caught me. Now maybe it was because I started recognizing more obscure fairy tales from my recent reading of Philip Pullman's translation of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, like "Donkey Skin," which is so disturbing in the original and even more so when psychologized from a novelistic retelling. Maybe it was because the intricate links between the tales finally caught me. (She always has a character from the fairy tale before narrate the new story as though it's an explanation of their past, thus making a fascinating daisy chain of loss, self-discovery, and empowerment.) Maybe it was because Donoghue has a gift for the sensory and illuminating metaphor (which she does). Maybe it was because one of these late retellings really spoke to me: "Sleeping Beauty" recast to me about the importance of pain and work and the dangers of being protected in a tower. Also, it seems as the collection went on that Donoghue allowed more of wonderful sense of her humor to sneak in; see the final story narrated by the "witch" from the Little Mermaid fairy tale.It wasn't that the stories became less didactic as they went on (such is often the nature of fables and fairy tales); it's just that they gripped me more. I ended up really enjoying the collection. Donoghue avoids magic and the supernatural in favor of focusing on myth and legend as a way of obscuring what is poorly understood or dimly desired. Thus, the "little mermaid" becomes a fisherman's daughter, separated from her "prince" by social class rather than a fish tail, and she loses her "voice" because she gives it up to follow him, not because of a hex. While I also devour tales of the supernatural, I also did like the way that Donoghue insisted on this literalism in the midst of her lyrical invocations of tales that we know from a mythic register rather than a material one.

  • Miriam
    2019-03-15 21:26

    Donoghue's feminist retellings of fairy tales is not as original as it would have been when first published, but the beauty and power of her prose is undiminished. The short first-person accounts flow fluidly (sometimes more fluidly than logically) from one to the next, connected by overlapping characters, a technique that elides the traditional good/evil dichotomy of fairy tales. However, readers should resist the tidal pull of the transitions and take a couple of breaks rather than reading straight through, as otherwise the sameness of the voices and ideas becomes a tad wearisome. I am sympathetic to Donoghue's rejection of the model of female powerlessness, objectification, and loss of identity as present in many popular tales, but I would have liked to see a greater variety of responses. The insistence on lesbianism reminded of some French feminist theorists such as Luce Irigaray. The tone of the book can be summed up in a line from the later chapter Tale of the Skin: "Once I was a stupid girl; now I am an angry woman."

  • Rachel Skye
    2019-02-22 22:43

    YES - this is such an amazing... AMAZING read.

  • Juushika
    2019-03-18 04:34

    A collection of 13 short stories, Kissing the Witch takes fairy tales (many of them easily recognizable) and revises them: poetic and magical, they take a fresh look at their stories and protagonists, instilling feminine independence, wisdom, and romance missing in the original tales. The narrative that ties the stories together is stretched thin, but everything else about the book is wonderful: it's a strong, uniform collection which is beautiful, liberating, and quietly—yet strongly—revolutionary. I recommend it to readers of all ages.The stories in Kissing the Witch stand alone, but they're tied together by a thin narrative in which each story precedes its predecessor in an overall timeline. These short bridges between stories attempt to give every female figure a voice—but the length of the collection stretches the connecting timeline unbelievably thin. Fortunately, that's the book's only real weakness.Most short story collections vary in quality, but Kissing the Witch maintains uniform high quality while featuring a variety of content. The fairy tales are well chosen, most of them recognizable (which is useful, when the author is revising them with new content), all of them with enough depth or unanswered questions to support a retelling. Donoghue's writing style tends towards mythic and dreamlike, but it's nevertheless approachable. She preserves the stories's magic while adding fresh, intelligent complications: her protagonists are women who are, or are learning to be, intelligent, brave, and self-sufficient; be they same-sex, opposite-sex, or with oneself, relationships in the stories never feature a ride into the sunset. These are tales of girls love themselves and their fairy godmothers more than they love princes, who are content turning from princess to goosegirl, who realize that they would rather rescue themselves than let a man on a white horse do the job. The short story format means that these are generally stories of realization, not of the lifetime consequences of those realizations—but it also means that there's a variety of characters, situations, and revelations which will reach a wider audience. Donoghue's gentle writing and the fairy tale setting makes for quiet stories of awakening and self-actualization, but they're no less revolutionary for their tone. Beautiful and empowering, this is a wonderful collection—for young women and old, and for all those who love retold fairy tales.

  • Allison Floyd
    2019-02-22 21:35

    There was nothing wrong with this book. I blame my recent Francesca Lia Block immersion for my lack of staying power with this one. From the three tales I read, this struck me as Francesca Lia Block with a lesbian feminist bent, i.e. beautifully written, but a lot more style than substance. Which is all very well, and I realize that these are fairytale retellings, and fairytales deal more in types than characters, et cetera. Again, had I not glutted myself on FLB (and Angela Carter) this summer, I probably would have been more patient here and treated it like a book of prose poems. But damn it, I want snappy narratives that involve characters. Maybe it's the change of seasons. Maybe I'm just burnt out on this sort of thing. Maybe it's Maybelline. I sure as hell wasn't born with it. Whatever "it" is. Okay, off topic. So, in summation, I gutged this one. Thank you. That is all.

  • Amanda
    2019-02-20 20:17

    I really enjoyed this! It was an easy, quick read, but the writing didn't suffer for that. It was my kind of dark fairy tales (not that dark, but not happy, fluffy unicorns), with feminist subversion that was so great to see! I would highly recommend this for those who are fans of fairy tales and want a fresh palate cleanser of a book.

  • Sarah Verminski
    2019-03-19 20:40

    I absolutely love this book! I read it at a time where I was reading all these re-told fairy tales, but none of them were told quite like this. After I read it I couldn't get enough of Emma Donoghue, and she's become one of my favorite authors.

  • dathomira
    2019-03-17 03:37

    im always skeptical of things comp'd to the bloody chamber, but i had a need for the good prose, and boy did this deliver. not all the stories hit me right in the center, but the ones that did were amazing. very happy to have read this and will probs buy a hardcopy.

  • LynnDee (The Library Lush)
    2019-02-24 22:18

    I like the concept of this book, and the stories were good. However, because the stories are short there isn't much character development, & because there are different characters it was difficult to keep track of whose story I was on. Overall though, I liked it.

  • ira ✨
    2019-03-09 20:32

    i went in with extremely high hopes and expectations but came out massively disappointed and on the verge of snoring or at least dozing off. i dropped and picked it up three times and then i decided it wasn't worth my time bc it was delaying me from reading better, more interesting books. i really tried to finish it for the wlw twists but honestly? 2-3 page retellings are just not gonna cut it for me. character development who?? world building where?? not in this book, that's for sure. glad to finally say goodbye to kissing the witch. didn't make me want to read anything else by emma donoghue either.

  • Akanksha Chattopadhyay
    2019-02-22 03:35

    The last story was worth five stars and more. But save for that, and the way the beauty-and-the-beast tale was concluded, the book failed to impress me as I had expected. Donoghue's prose, though, deserves a bow.

  • Leah
    2019-03-22 00:30

    "On the whole I am inclined to think that a witch should not kiss. Perhaps it is the not being kissed that makes her a witch; perhaps the source of her power is the breath of loneliness around her. She who takes a kiss can also die of it, can wake into something unimaginable, having turned herself into some new species."Not at all what I expected. Instead of a collection of short stories retelling separate fairy tales, Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins links each story by having the protagonist tell their story to the protagonist of the previous story. The effect, in a way, is of one continuous tale. Is this meant to say that one woman is every woman; our stories are each other's stories?At first I kept stopping in an attempt to keep track (mentally) of who was from the previous tale. I quickly gave up on that; it interfered with my connection to the story itself. Each tale flowed into the next much better when I just read them as they were. Only when I was finished did I go back through and trace each character. The collection as a whole showed how women's stories (lives?) are intertwined.3.5 starsThe following are the notes I took after I'd finished. If you don't want any SPOILERS, don't click to show the spoiler.(view spoiler)[The Tale of the Shoe - Cinderella. She's not made to slave, she chooses to. She falls in love with her fairy godmother.The Tale of the Bird - The Fairy Godmother. Not sure of the exact tale this one's retelling. The bird gives hope of freedom to the housebound pregnant wife.The Tale of the Rose - The bird (from above) is the beauty in a Beauty and the Beast tale. Although it wasn't her choice to go to the "beast" eventually she wants to be there. The "beast" turns out to be a woman, the queen of the castle.The Tale of the Apple - The beast is Snow White. She was close to her father; they'd walk together through his orchards. (This is where the apple comes from.) Her stepmother killed her father because she was sterile and feared the king's punishment. Snow White ran away.The Tale of the Handkerchief - The stepmother/queen. She wanted to kill Snow White to stay queen because she was the maid from The Goose Girl who was impersonating the true princess. Her treachery in that tale was never revealed rather she lost her throne in that kingdom because her husband/the prince die of illness.The Tale of the Hair - The decapitated horse from the Goose Girl who tells its tale of its former life as a woman, Rapunzel. But in this version Rapunzel was blind since childhood, and she asked to be in the tower because she was scared of the dangers in the outside world. When she finally built up the courage to leave, the old woman broke down, Rapunzel stayed.The Tale of the Brother - The "witch" from Rapunzel. She was an orphan with her brother who was taken by the Snow Queen.The Tale of the Spinster - Snow Queen. She explains her early life, spinning until she had too much work to handle by herself, she hires a young woman (Little Sister) to help her out. She becomes pregnant with an illegitimate child. When she doesn't take proper care of him, Little Sister takes the baby away. A definite Rumpelstiltskin vibe.The Tale of the Cottage - Little Sister is Gretel of Hansel and Gretel. They stumble on a cottage with a woman who the brother seems to make advances at then attempts to rape the woman so the woman puts him in a cage. Gretel frees him, tells him to leave, she stays with the woman.The Tale of the Skin - The angry woman from the cottage is the princess from Donkeyskin. But this version the prince never realizes its her. When she goes home her father's dead. She goes to live with the old flower-woman in her cottage on the outskirts of her kingdom.The Tale of the Needle - The flower-woman born to parents who through themselves barren she was made to wear gold mesh gloves from birth. Overprotected, spoiled. She's curious about the tower beyond the bramble hedge (planted by her parents to keep out danger). Old woman in the tower, singing. Sleeping Beauty wakes up to her privilege.The Tale of the Voice - Little Mermaid. The "witch" locked up in the tower with the spinning wheel tells Sleeping Beauty her story. The sea witch attempts to talk Little Mermaid out of it but she won't listen. The guy cheats on her. No happily ever after there.The Tale of the Kiss - The sea witch's story. Barren from an early age. Red-haired. She built power through mystery and the villagers' assumptions. Ends with "And what happened next, you ask? Never you mind. There are some tales not for secrets are all I have left to chew on in the night. This is the story you asked for. I leave it in your mouth." (hide spoiler)]

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    2019-03-09 01:42

    4.5 stars. This is a very creative, atmospheric book of fairy tale retellings, with some of the best writing I've ever seen. I love how three-dimensional some of the tales are, and how she got these lovely characters developed in so short a time. The Tale of the Shoe: 5 stars. I don't think anyone can ever understand how much I love this Cinderella retelling. It's about being who you're supposed to be, or being who you truly are. And then, because I asked, she took me to the ball. Isn't that what girls are supposed to ask for?The Tale of the Bird: 4 stars. This is a story about freedom and making your own decisions. It ties in much more smoothly with its predecessor than many of the stories tie together. He would never let anything hurt me, but he would never let anything touch me either. The Tale of the Rose: This retelling of Beauty and the Beast gets five stars simply for its last line, which is one of my favorite quotes of all time. Aside from the last line, I suppose this isn't much of a retelling, but it's enjoyable and emotional nonetheless. I can't say the quote because it spoils everything, but I loved it so much I accidentally memorized it. The Tale of the Apple: 5 stars. A pitch-perfect retelling of Snow White with far more strong girls. This almost reminded me of Once Upon A Time's morally grey queen. Also, it connects nicely to its predecessor. Say that I am queen, she said, her fingers whitening around the scepter.If you really were, I told her, it would need no saying.The Tale of the Handkerchief: 5 stars. This isn't a typical retelling; I suppose you could call it The Goose Girl, but it comes from the point of view of that story's villain. This is an odd, yet strangely enticing story. The ending is especially beautiful. And then the tears did come, and I hoped they were for her, a queen dead in her prime, and not just for my own treacherous self.The Tale of the Hair: 3 stars. I don't love this story; it's not very strong thematically, and the main character is slightly obnoxious. That being said, it's interesting and enticing and definitely worth a read. You should've known better than to give me what I asked for, I whispered. Now the wind is scented with lavender, and the wolves howl because they cannot have him, and when he blows his horn, I will go to him.The Tale of the Brother: 4 stars. I have no idea what happened in this story but I enjoyed it. It's sort of a retelling of Hansel and Gretel but not... quite. I have never been content to be nothing but a girl.The Tale of the Spinster: 3 stars. A retelling of Rumplestiltskin. This one is interesting, although not the strongest thematically. If I have trampled you, it was to mesh your fibers into something useful. The Tale of the Cottage: 2 stars. The voice is just too weird and disjointed here. I understand the point, but this retelling of Hansel and Gretel just falls flat. The Tale of the Skin: 5 stars. A princess who runs to become a pauper, a pauper who fails at getting the prince. There is something so unspeakably beautiful about this story. It's so messed up and so gorgeous. It's also the source of one of my other favorite quotes from this brief book. See this leaf, little girl, blackened under the snow? It has died so it will be born again on the branch in spring time. Once I was a stupid girl; now I am an angry woman. Sometimes you must shed your skin to save it.The Tale of the Needle: 4 stars. A retelling of sleeping beauty that discusses the darker elements of the tale– for example, that the parents keep their daughter locked away for her whole life.I was innocent of all effort; I was blank as a page.The Tale of the Voice: 5 stars. This retelling of The Little Mermaid addresses the fact that a woman must lose her voice to get the man of her dreams. Here, the witch is not the villain; the girl's own worshipful love is.Perhaps we get not what we deserve, but what we demand. The Tale of the Kiss: 5 stars. This story is a show-stopper, written with such a gorgeous voice. I love the main character here. Power I had to learn how to pick up without getting burnt, how to shape it and conceal it and flaunt it and use it, and when to use it, and when to still my breath and do nothing at all. This aching short story collection is recommended to everyone.

  • Liisa
    2019-02-20 21:38

    Kissing the Witch includes 13 short fairy tale retellings that all have a feminist twist in them. I´ve never been very interested in fairy tales and all I know comes from Disney films or children´s books and as it´s been a long time since I´ve watched and read them, I don´t remember much. I recognized only a few of Donoghue´s retellings and maybe I would have gotten more out of the collection had I been able to compare more of the stories to their original form. But these tales are certainly enjoyable even without the background information. Words, at least ones written by me, can´t really describe how beautiful Donoghue´s writing is. Though breathtaking comes quite close. I´ll end this with a passage that´s about fall - a very topical subject. It´s a great example of Donaghue´s incredible writing skills."I had lost count of the moons by the time I came to a strange kingdom where the trees were not green. The first time I saw the turning of the leaves it bewildered me; I thought it might be the end of the world. Not even the flowerwoman could make a dress as bright as this destruction. I thought some invisible fire must be burning each leaf from the outside in; I could see the green veins retreating before the crisp tide of flame. When leaves fell on me I staggered out of their way. More colors than I had names for covered my feet as I walked. At night I slept on piles of crackling leaves, strangely comforted that all things were sharing in my fall."

  • Emily
    2019-02-26 01:42

    This is just the sort of book that I SHOULD like. It's the sort of book I'd imagine that a lot of people would read and say, even if they didn't like it, "This would be right up Emily's alley!" But lordy be, it just didn't do much for me. The "new skins" for the old tales tended to take the bite out of the old tales, while trying to be bite-ier somehow. I don't know. I can't really figure it. The language is evocative. The structure could be seen as inventive. There are some nice images. Just all left me cold. And frankly, it all felt pretty predictable at a certain point. "Hmm, there's a witch in this story! Do you think, maybe, she might kiss or be kissed by the other woman in the story? Oh, she did! What a shock! This is edgy!"Excuse me, I think I need to go read some Anne Sexton now.

  • Alexandra
    2019-03-03 00:18

    I picked this book up because of Jen Campbell essentially, specifically because of her fairy tale collection and recommendations video. I'm obsessed with fairytales and magical realism and when I heard there was a collection of fairytales rewritten with a feminist twist, I got very excited.The book was a quick read (all in all took about 3 hours) and does in fact read like a fairytale from start to finish. I liked the feeling of independence in The Voice and found the metaphor for losing your voice literally and in love to be a strong connection. I didn't connect with a bunch of these tales, however I did like the over all feel of the book. I think Donoghue was very clever in twisting old fairy tales to show women choosing very different endings than the Brother Grimm intended. I'd also really like to pick up a copy of Room now as well.