In his latest outing, Graham Joyce offers up the story of a 15 year-old girl lured away by fairies. What is so interesting about this particular fairy tale is how grounded it is in English village life and the characters involved. The effects of both Tara’s disappearance and her sudden reappearance 20 years later are finely delineated in the lives of her parents, her brother, and her boyfriend.
I picked this one up over the summer and found it hard to put down. I am NOT generally a fan of fairy stories, but the writing, the setting, the characters, all of them drew me in. And I had to know what really happened to Tara during those 20 missing years. By the end of the novel I was more interested in what she would do next, and in whether her return was going to help those she left behind recover some of what they lost when she disappeared.
Joyce creates a wonderfully unsentimental sympathy for his characters, especially Tara, who can never really go home again. His writing is sometimes straight-forward, almost flat, which keeps the fantastic grounded. At other times it is quite lyrical, especially when describing the natural world.
Recommend this one to your literary-minded students; perhaps those who enjoyed Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and The Magician King.
Adult/High School–Everyone knows that strange things happen in the forest at the edge of this small English town. But when 16-year-old Tara Martin disappears after an argument with her boyfriend, Richie, no one thinks about the forest and he is blamed for her disappearance. Twenty years later, Tara appears at her parents’ door. She is confused and her unkempt attire is 20 years out of date. Most unnerving is the fact that she hasn’t aged. Her story of the past 20 years–which to Tara was only 6 months–was that she was taken by fairies. Time within this world is different from our own; and she couldn’t leave until the stars aligned correctly. Her story doesn’t sit well with her family so she is sent to see Vivian Underwood, the eccentric local psychiatrist who struggles to place Tara’s experience within a psychological framework, while Peter, her brother, and his parents continue to grapple with her story. Richie is happy to have her back, but it takes young Jack, her nephew, and an elderly neighbor to play a role in leading Tara to understand her experience and what sort of action she should take next. This is an excellent read with great potential for teen readers. The fairy world [though, for the record, they don’t like to be called fairies] is a sort of happy commune, rife with casual sex and profanity, which could make this a book best recommended to mature young adult readers.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA