Poison by Sarah Pinborough

Just finished reading Poison by Sarah Pinborough.  This is a retelling of the Snow White story with a new twist on both the characters and the plot.  I loved it.  I mean, to start off with it really is the most beautiful little book to look at.  The book I read is the small hardback version.  There is no jacket but the book cover itself is decorated and the inside story contains amazing illustrations at the start of each chapter.  It really is gorgeous and, in case you’re wondering – the content totally lives up to the expectations created by those first impressions!

Okay, I should probably keep this short as most of you will no doubt be aware of the tale of Snow White.  So, if you think of the basic premise everything is contained here, except, it’s all a bit, well, slightly different than we thought.  Snow White, called so by her Step Mother – a dark haired beauty, kind and pure and everyone adores her.  The new Queen – exactly the opposite.  Barely older than Snow herself she has captivated the King with her exquisite and cold beauty – plus, lets, face it, she’s not exactly shy in the sack and he’s fairly enamoured by her bedroom antics, read into this that he’s a paunchy, middle aged guy who can’t believe his good luck to have this temptress as his wife.

Definitely a fairy tale for grown ups this story doesn’t shy away from the occasional curse word or sex scene – although stand easy, this isn’t a bodice ripper by any stroke.  I really did enjoy this though, in fact I’m sure I’ve already mentioned that once at least.  I could easily have just sat and devoured this in one sitting but I decided to take my time a little.  SP manages to strike a lovely balance with her writing style.  She captures the fantasy world of mediaeval fairy plus gives this a proper fairytale voice.  I don’t know how else to say it frankly.  Sometimes I think certain retellings lose an opportunity in the making by not quite getting the voice right.  Here, it almost feels lyrical but it’s adult.  It has a once upon a time feel and yet it has something more.  And, for a moment there it almost feels like something that you could enjoy reading with your children – however, I strongly recommend you don’t be fooled into that notion or it’ll be red faces all round! (Unless you learn to read ahead and ad lib as you go along).

You’re probably wondering how the author has managed to give this a different twist.  Obviously I don’t want to give away any spoilers so the only real thing I can say here is she gives the characters motivations – and they’re not altogether what you might expect.  The Queen is just an excellent character.  Really well developed, seemingly cold and evil and yet also unhappy and frankly insecure.  Is she totally evil??  Not really sure about that although her background could certainly argue the case.  And yet, she shows definite moments of potential ‘teetering on the edge of redemption’.   Snow White is much as we expect except she’s not altogether innocent.  She is, of course, divinely beautiful with her pale skin, rosy lips and cascading black locks – yet, she’s not exactly shy.  She enjoys a bawdy song and a beer and wearing breeches and riding horses in, dare I say it, the male fashion (astride!).  Not exactly demure then.

So the author gives us a different insight into the characters, adds another layer to them just in much the same way she does to the world.  As you’ll discover at the end of the story, this isn’t just the world of Snow White, this is the world of fantasy, and no end of characters live in it’s dark forests and peasant villages.  No doubt there are a few wolves there too!

And, on top of all that I totally take my hat off to the author for an ending that made my jaw drop open, literally.  I kid you not!  If you see this coming – then well done you!  But I totally didn’t.  I was expecting something completely different and yet this is carried out in such a gobsmacking and unexpected way that not only are you overawed at the author’s cheek but you actually enjoy what she’s done here.  Yes, you might chafe a little against it and a few days (or hours) later think ‘nooooo’ but really I love that she can pull this off.  And, this is another reason why this isn’t for children as the message running through this is totally not that which you usually try to give out!  I have a feeling, however, that we might revisit this story or at least some of the other characters.

On the whole a lovely, well written, beautifully illustrated retelling of a family favourite fairytale with a new twist.  I really do recommend this to you if you’re not too “grown up’ to enjoy a good fairy story and you like a few surprises to shake things up a bit.  Go on.  You know you want to!

I’m entering this for Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time event.  Details here.

20 Responses to “Poison by Sarah Pinborough”

  1. Lisa (@EffingRainbow)

    I have this one! Same edition, and it really is pretty, isn’t it? It will definitely be on the ‘very soon’ list. 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      I can’t wait to see what you think. It’s a really quick read and I enjoyed it. It has the right tone and also the shock value.
      I hope you enjoy it.
      Lynn 😀

  2. jessicabookworm

    I’d not heard of this book before. Thank you for sharing because it sounds right up my street!

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a really lovely book in both senses of the word! I think there are two further in the series as well which I will definitely pick up. I’m even missing this now I’ve put it down!
      Lynn 😀

  3. Carl V. Anderson

    Not a bodice ripper? Then forget it! Just kidding. Sounds like a fun one. I like the cover. Fairy tale retellings, when they are good, can be such a treat to read. You bring with you your knowledge of the story and then get taken on whatever ride the author chose to take you on. So glad you enjoyed it.

    • lynnsbooks

      It was great – I think you would like it too. Especially because on top of the writing and the twist in the plot the book is so beautiful just by itself with such lovely illustrations.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Redhead

    I’ve been hearing good press about this one, nice to see my trusted blogger friends give it a thumbs up as well. fairy tale retelling? unexpected and satisfying twist at the end? sounds perfect for me!

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it. Very quick read. Enjoyed the writing style and had a ‘O’ moment at the end!
      Lynn 😀

  5. TBM

    Trust me, I’m not a grown-up. Don’t even make my bed except when I put on clean sheets. this sounds fun.

    • lynnsbooks

      It was really good and I could happily read it again. I know you’re on a book ban but if you want to email me I will send you this to read because it is such a lovely book and I think you’d enjoy it.
      Let me know.

  6. Top ten books I’d love to see as a movie or tv show | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Poison by Sarah Pinborough (I think/hope there are going to be a few of these stories so maybe a series). […]

  7. Charmed by Sarah Pinborough | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Just finished reading Charmed by Sarah Pinborough and before I go any further must say what a fantastic little book.  I just loved it.  I don’t know where SP has been hiding but now I’ve found her out I’m going to be backtracking eagerly through any past work of hers.  Also many, many thanks to the wonderful Jenny at Wondrous Reads for putting me onto both these lovely books – you are the beeswax.  I read Poison a few months ago which was also an excellent book and my review is here. […]

  8. Delia (Postcards from Asia)

    It almost feels like blasphemy to add my thoughts to this positive review but I’m one who did not enjoy the book as much as I though I would. I agree with you that the book in itself is a work of art, beautifully designed, but the story frustrated me after the first chapter. That end was so weird and unexpected and felt totally out of the blue, it left me a little annoyed. The step mother could have been so much more if only her character was a little more developed.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think it was the ending that really impressed me – just simply because it was so unexpected! This is the beauty of blogging – you can share such a love of certain books with people who you talk with and yet at the same time completely (and amicably of course) totally disagree about others.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Waffle, waffle, waffle… | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Pinsborough’s fairy tale retellings (Poison, Beauty, Charm) – these are three great books, all from the same world and interconnected and […]

  10. To adapt or not to adapt! | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Beauty/Poison/Charm by Sarah Pinborough – mashed up and twisted retold fairy tales […]

  11. Once upon a time…. they all lived happily ever after. The end. |

    […] Poison by Sarah Pinborough – this and the next two books are awesome and I just love them.  They’re all made up of more than one tale, they all hail from the same world and they read wonderfully.  Plus, they’re really beautiful little books with gorgeous illustrations.  In case of doubt – these are not children’s books!  Pinborough has a wicked streak, she can be a bit naughty and her stories are a slightly more twisted version than the originals – Charm and Beauty follow in the series. […]

  12. Short and Sweet | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Poison/Charm/Beauty by Sarah Pinborough […]

  13. TTT: Top 10 favourite novellas/short stories | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Poison/Charm/Beauty by Sarah Pinsborough – three books – each one connected, that include a bunch of fairy tales for grown ups.  Wonderful reading. […]

  14. TTT : ‘Go to’ Authors | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] supernatural murder mystery – Mayhem and Murder, 13 Minutes; fairytale retellings – Poison, Charm and Beauty; and many more  I don’t pretend to have read all her books but I’m […]

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