Monday, August 28, 2017

Russian Fairy Tales - Good Reads at Any Age

When I was a little girl, Soviet books were freely available, cheap and very popular in India. I had some too but my favourite was Vasilisa The Beautiful: Russian Fairy Tales.

But this was not the book I had. Mine was this:

Vasilisa The Beautiful: Russian Fairy Tales

Now, in a great many of these fairy tales, the heroine, Vasilisa, in this case, is a stepdaughter and her stepmother and stepsisters ill treat her. In this particular story, they send her to get some tinder or some such thing as they've run out. She has to go ask some from Baba Yaga, the witch with the switch.

This is among the many tales that formed my own private set of values. On her way into the house of the witch, Vasilisa first meets resistance from the gate. She oils it. And then there is one thing after another and when she has to flee the witch all the things that she helped help her back. 

Emelya and the Pike was also my favourite. This was about a lazy boy who agrees to throw a pike back into the water. The grateful fish then grants him a boon. He can summon its magic power at any time, saying: 
  By the Will of the Pike, Do as I like!
I also like The Silver Saucer and the Rosy-Cheeked Apple for the girl in this story gets these things from her father and has a whale of a time with them. Obviously, that then draws the jealousy of her sisters upon her and things transpire. Of course, things work out in the end as it's a fairy tale!

Sister Alyonushka and Brother Ivanushka has, again, a wicked stepmother! I think that, had these tellers of tall fairy tales been alive today, they'd have had a great many slander lawsuits flung at them. 
By Matorin Nikolay Vasilyevich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Frog Tsarevna, I now find, is actually Vasilisa the Beautiful - at least that's what I'm forced to believe given what the latter throws up there:

Wee Little Havroshechka was not among my well loved tales but quite a delicious one. 

 Marya Morevna the Lovely Tsarevna , I know I loved it but the story I've quite forgotten! Rereading it now, I find it absolutely spot on - dark and delicious with Koshchei the Deathless who's not quite as cool as Baba Yaga. But he's got my respect, nevertheless:

Ivan Bilibin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ivan - Young of Years, Old of Wisdom has always charmed me but, like Maria, he has not held sway over my memory. Here too it is the villain who's caught my fancy: Zmei Gorinich. And it has The Self-Playing Psaltery, the Dancing Goose and the Glee-Maker Cat. 

I would dearly love to reread them all down to the last one, The Seven Simeons - Seven Brave Workingmen.  

I hope I have stirred your appetite for these lovely stories. In parting, I leave you with "Twelve Months" which I read in another book.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Devilishly Good Read - Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club

I’m toying with giving up my library membership as my eyesight finds it harder and harder to cope with ‘real’ books. Reading on an app is so much easier. And handier. The latest visit to my library was during a slightly stressful time. I, thus, happily grabbed the book suggested by the librarian. And that was a Tess Gerritsen.

“I write because I love to tell stories, and I can’t think of a more amazing job than to sit at my desk and listen to fictional characters having conversations,”

Now, I’ve never heard of her before. And, while I’m far from a reader of best sellers, I’m one of those who simply has to know the plot before I plunge in, be it a film or a novel.

But the author has this going for her, in my eyes, that she's a medical person and into anthropology. I’m a doctor’s daughter and medicine often involves detection and I'm a huge fan of medicine and detection. As for anthropology, that's also fascinating - a rather messy area but quite full of things that read as juicily as fiction, one has to admit.

And then I used to be a fan of the Bones series. Alas, I’ve only read the one Bones book by Kathy Reichs as my library has mostly her books for young adults.

I’d planned the book to keep me company while I was home alone for the week. As it transpired, I read it through one night. Of course, that’s mainly because I skip and read. To be fair, life is short and, to lovingly read line for line, it would require writing that really takes my breath away. Or a plot. I'm both hard and easy to please.

The story lived up to the blurb’s promise of blood and dismemberment in dollops and lusty globs. Speaking of which some intercourse is interspersed. Quite juicy what with a Church Father being one of the participants. There is an amusing piece which would give you a rough

The novel is devilishly engaging - the Devil figures all over the place. Obviously! Mephisto! For me, as a non-Christian residing in a country where the majority are Hindus, the book offered some trivia about the concepts of the Devil in ancient Christianity. In general, it is a fairly informative book.

The ambience is alright but somehow rang a bit Agatha Christie to me. Which is why it just might be a hit with the ladies. Not to mention the fact that the author is highly cited as feminist. Well, apparently, to look deeper into that I'd have to read another of her books.

There is a more overt feminist slant here than in earlier books. Both heroines are far more capable and resourceful than any of the venal, stupid or criminal males they encounter.

A bit of a Roman Holiday feel in some chapters - such passages in a book are often as good as a trip to the place.

I’d absolutely try more of her in the meantime - perhaps for a nice vacation read this winter. Reading has become an ill affordable pleasure in today’s fast paced world.

In the meantime, this is a book which would go down well with fans of crime fiction who like their corpses in a far from neat condition.

Also, it has a lot of cute family scenes and offers a good representation of women as professionals and men as caring family persons. We still do require enough of this in our diet to change things for the better.

Lastly, I do think I’ve watched a show or two based on her stories.

So do yourself a favour and buy this one now - it’s got goats, for one thing, and is quite evocative of some good old time evil!