Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

DATE FINISHED: July 6th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  On Christmas Day, a young woman returns home after being missing without a trace for 20 years, but barely seems to have aged. Her only explanation is that she was taken by a stranger to a world just beyond ours, and 20 years passed in the real world while she spent only 6 months there. Her family cannot believe she has finally returned, but send her to a psychiatrist in an attempt to find out what really happened in the missing years. Is there a trauma her mind has blocked out, and constructed a fantasy so that she can deal with it – or has she really been ‘away with the fairies’?

THOUGHTS:  As ever, Joyce creates a faultlessly recognisable, comfortable middle class suburbia then overpaints the corners with shades of unreality. Although technically classified as ‘fantasy’ I think this novel is very accessible to the ‘general fiction’ reader, being as it is rooted squarely in the real world.  Through the theories expounded by Tara’s psychiatrist we are able to accept the possibilities of the unacceptable because he doesn’t believe in it.

With Some Kind of Fairy Tale, we are firmly back in The Tooth Fairy territory – similar location, simlar ‘type’ of story – but this time with adult rather than adolescent protagonists.  What I normally enjoy about Joyce’s fiction is his juxtaposition of the real and unreal, with the element of ambiguity regarding whether the supernatural element is truly supernatural or is in fact a metaphor, or psychological manifestation. I was surprised to find that although I found the supernatural element of this story ultimately far less ambiguous than in previous novels (I won’t say leaning in which direction, though), we are still proffered alternative explanations, possibilities and reactions through the narratives of the different characters and I still thoroughly enjoyed his exposition of the story.

Joyce has a very down to earth prose style, but I also enjoyed the poetry which crept into his descriptions of the nature that bridged the gap between two worlds:

The bluebells made such a pool that the earth had become like water, and all the trees and bushes seemed to have grown out of the water. And the sky above seemed to have fallen down on to the earth floor; and I didn’t know if the sky was the earth or the earth was water. I had been turned upside down. I had to hold the rock with my fingernails to stop me falling into the sky of the earth or the water of the sky. But I couldn’t hold on.

FOLLOWING ON:  Tara’s insistence of her story in the face of psychological opposition reminded me most strongly of K-PAX by Gene Brewer, although there is also resemblance to Liv in A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside. Joyce’s reverence for/appreciation of nature harks back to his earlier novel, The Limits of Enchantment. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones is a young adult novel which explores the real-world psychological impact of a faery abduction; and The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue explores the world of faery changelings.


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