Monday, March 16, 2009

Tender Morsels-- Margo Lanagan

First I must apologize for my brief blogging hiatus... I was on a vacation, but mostly the blame for why I have not been writing can be pegged on this book, Tender Morsels.

WHAT?! I hated Tender Morsels?? But it won a Printz Honor!
Yup. Sorry. It kinda killed my will to read and sucked the joy out of retold fairy tales for me...

I should say that I typically love retold folk and fairy tales. This usually makes me biased IN FAVOR of them. And, furthermore, I was reared on East of the Sun and West of the Moon by Peter Asbjornsen and I love the brutal gory tales of the north. So, it really took me by surprise how much I didn't enjoy Tender Morsels.

Tender Morsels tells the story of two worlds: the real and true world where men rape women, fathers abuse daughters, and mothers die, and the heavenly world where Liga and her daughters Branza and Urdda live happily and peacefully. The novel transpires equally in both worlds, and the reader is sometimes left to figure out which world is being featured and which version of each character we are seeing. After a lifetime of sexual abuse and impregnation by her father, Liga's fragile spirit is crushed irreparably when she is gang raped and impregnated by local ruffians. Just as Liga is about to throw Branza, and infant, and herself (pregnant with Urdda) off a cliff, a spirit appears to her and transports her into a heavenly dimension. In this personal heaven, Liga raises Branza and Urdda. In the real world, a local witch and dwarf man in search of easy fortune, decide to poke holes in the space-time continuum and ultimately disrupt Liga's perfect heaven. First Urdda, then Branza and Liga are transported back to the real world and have to learn how to exist in a land that's brutal and real.

I can see why some people might consider this work worthy of a Printz honor. It was a complexly written book, and Lanagan mostly succeeds with a Norse influenced prose. Still, I think that complexly written doesn't always equal great, and this is where Tender Morsels falls short for me. To me, the story itself got a bit lost, and if the plot isn't driving the reader forward, what will? I would love to hear other people's opinions about this book, as I know there are big fans of it out there!

I would recommend this book to older teens, as it's a quite complex read. It would be good for teens who liked East by Edith Pattou (one of my all time favorite books), Norse fairy tales, and books that play with the space-time continuum. Just a note so you know what you are recommending, in case you haven't read it: there are multiple rape scenes, incest, and some blurry relationships with animals.


Sadako said...

I'm sorry this wasn't better. I love fairy tales as well, and I'm always looking for contemporary books that use fairy tales as their basis or that reference them or update them in some way. I really like Francesca Lia Block's the Rose and the Beast which does that quite well. Also, the book Kissing the Witch.

Alicia said...

Jen, I kinda hafta second your feeling about not wanting to read during/after Tender Morsels. It took me quite a long time to read, and while I enjoy some of the funny lines, I was really just hoping it would end. It was my first fairytale retelling, so I'm trying not to let it get to me.