Please note that the publisher sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book is slightly different to those that I usually review on this site. In that, the publishers are releasing it to their subscribers in a serialised format. I think that this is an interesting idea. Since, it mirrors the way that authors like Dickens brought out their manuscripts. The publisher describe their method in the following manner;
“We publish books serially to give you space to absorb and discuss the books with The Pigeonhole community. Our belief is that reading should be thrilling, communal and an event not to be missed.
Why the word stave?
When Charles Dickens published his beloved classic A Christmas Carol, he called the individual instalments ‘staves’ – a musical term which encapsulated the idea that the whole novel was more than the sum of its parts. We are bringing back this great word as a tribute to the father of serial publishing.” https://thepigeonhole.com/about
As I said earlier, the publishers were kind enough to send me the complete work in exchange for an honest review. Therefore, I was able to see the way that these chunks (or staves) worked as a whole. This was quite interesting.
As the title suggests the stories in this work are either; fables, works based on these stories, or works influenced by their tropes. The work includes a variety of takes on the fable. There are stories that are in the form of traditional fairy tales. There are tales that, while still inspired by Fable, subvert the; structure, setting and era of the form. These stories; urbanise and modernise the world of the fable. The publisher tells us that ;
“Talking badgers and salacious pixies. Impossible promises and broken hope. Exploring the fairy-tale evolution, Fable brings new tales formed from old skin with original inventions to boot. Spanning across three continents, Fable draws together some of the most beloved, or even feared, fairy tales while bringing to light those lesser known.” https://thepigeonhole.com/books/fable”
It begins with two original fairy tales by the Brothers Grim and Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid and Ashenputtel. The two stories, which follow on from the two originals, penned by Kate Forsythe, are traditional fables. They follow closely to the original form, and worlds, of the fairy tale, while playing with some of the tropes.
The next story written by Lucy Balmer Hooft, probably one of my favourites, takes us to, what seems like, an African tribe and focuses on a pregnant woman. The story is a very poignant tale of motherhood and a mother’s sadness/joy as their children grow into men.
The following stories take us further and further into the modern era. These tales look at; the modern family, childhood, adolescence capitalism, exploitation, and redemption. One story The Farmer and the Badger by J.L. Baldock, , a good example of how these works seek to modernise the fable, is from the point of view of a child who opposes the way that her father, who is actively involved in the badger culls that are taking place within her community, earns his living. The story explores the rights and wrongs of the practice, and other solutions, but, also, explores; love and loyalty, revolution and rebellion, experience and inexperience, and family love and obligation.
Another story, The Organiser by Gareth Brierley, is set in a small town quite literally ruled by their local business owners. This couple shape; the inhabitant’s lives and deaths, where they work, the colour of their house, who can speak and what they can say;
“They could decide what school you would go to, what job you could have and even what colour your house would be.” P.125
The couple take on an almost godlike significance in the community and they demand that their child receive the same godlike devotion from the town’s inhabitants. The story follows their much loved, and much despised child, and her attempts to atone for the cruelty of her parents. This story movingly, and funnily, explores the issues of; power, corruption, love and redemption.
Many people, including this writer, are calling for the diversification of the story. We call for stories; that are by and about women (and other underrepresented groups), and for stories set in a plurality of settings. This book meets that call with stories that are written by women and that represent young women who have agency. In addition, there are stories set in a variety of cultures. Although, it might have been nice to see a few more stories that show non-heterosexual relationships.
These stories call themselves fables but they are more than that. They use the familiar form of the fable to explore the issues that face us today, whether those issues be; capitalism, exploitation, family or children fighting to understand and improve their world. I really liked this book. I highly recommend that you look at the publisher’s website’ (https://thepigeonhole.com/books/fable)