“A Wild Swan: And Other Tales” is not a typical book by Michael Cunningham. It’s a colorful collection of fairy tales, revisited by the author, and presented to us from completely new perspectives. I was curious before starting the book if I was going to be able to recall any of the stories or characters from the fairy tales chosen by Cunningham, as the last time I remember myself reading a fairy tale was definitely more than twenty years ago. I did however find all the stories familiar and enjoyed the chance to conjure them up from the far-away corners of my memory.
If you ever had a chance to re-read any of your childhood favorite fairy tales, you’ll probably agree that a lot of times they seem illogical and cruel, and that their characters do things whose motivation is utterly unclear, although these are never questioned by a child. Cunningham questions the irrationality of the fairy tales and masterly invents the motivation and background behind all these actions and events we used to take for granted. Have you ever asked yourself why could a gnome want a queen’s firstborn child? And how did the life of the guy who retained a swan’s wing instead of his arm looked like? Cunningham places the characters and the events of the fairy tales in the modern times. If magic can happen at all, why does it have to be in the past? Why do we always see fairy tales as something that has happened really long ago?
Another aspect of these revisited fairy tales I really loved was the author’s ability to tell them from totally unexpected perspectives. He gives voices to both good and evil characters, main and secondary or unnoticed ones.
A witty and entertaining read.
Note: I obtained this book through NetGalley.