The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A modern day fairy tale


I will start this review by saying short stories are not usually my thing, in fact I tend to avoid them because I know I’ll be left wanting more – and strangely enough, I want more of Tetley Abednego, but in this instance it’s not a criticism.  I want more because I can’t get enough of this character, this world, the words on the page, the emotional depth and the hope that is delivered in the final pages.

Valente has managed to write a story that on the face of it appears hopeless and yet she infuses this with her own whimsical style and instead of creating something bleak and full of doom comes up with a character who is so supremely hopeful, who sees the beauty in this strange world that is all she’s ever known and gives us a feeling that perhaps things could be better.

Once upon a time a young girl, was born in Candlehole in a place known as Garbagetown.  Having managed to survive this strange and bizarre world, finding beauty in stories and looking for leftovers from the previous world before everything was covered in water, she became known as Tetley.  For a long period she was hated for a terrible mistake she made, although this was carried out in good faith.  She accepted her punishment, expecting sometimes to die on any given day and eventually she came to live alone – until she discovered she wasn’t alone at all.  The end.

Obviously this is a story with a meaning behind it.  Valente handles this well and it isn’t the type of tale that feels like it’s preaching.  More, the author gives the story a kind of inevitability, the world is underwater, a handful of survivors live a bizarre life on a strange floating mass of waste left over from the days before everything went pear-shaped.  There’s a strange kind of irony that the rubbish from our throw away society becomes the means for life in this unusual story.

This could be such a book of despair and yet it doesn’t go down that route.  For the survivors, they have never known any different so there isn’t the strange nostalgia of the ‘good old days’.  Instead, they have these mementoes from the past and they use them – not only to live but to create stories and myths.

Tetley is a fantastic character to read.  She tells her tale simply, she doesn’t become involved in making excuses or feeling sorry for herself or blaming others.  It is what it is and I just loved her refreshingly direct manner.  I would happily read more in fact I would love to do so.

I loved the writing.  Unlike garbagetown, which is made up of waste, Valente manages to give every word and sentence meaning.  Nothing is wasted here and to be honest she is a magnificent storyteller.  She grabbed my attention almost from the first page and I was hooked from there onwards.  She brings her creation to life in the mind’s eye with an ease that belies the difficulty of such an undertaking.

Valente – I salute you.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Past is Red by Catherynne M Valente

Every Wednesday I take part in Can’t Wait Wednesday, I’m also hoping to take part in a new meme being hosted by Elza Reads called Wondrous Words Wednesday.  I’ll be combining these into the same posts as they’re both short and sweet.

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente:


Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.

The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

Expected Publication July 2021


This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

My word this week is :



  • a discolored, bluish appearance caused by a bruise, pooling of blood due to congestion of blood vessels, strangulation, etc.:When the dead person is lying on their back, lividity will form on the buttocks, back, or backs of the legs.
  • a grayish or ashen appearance of the face; pallor:The traditional ghost image usually involves a certain paleness of the face—a corpselike lividity.
  • furious anger:When the generator they’d ordered arrived late and then failed to work, her lividity knew no bounds.
  • a reddish appearance of the face, as from strong emotion or embarrassment:I was on the shore with my parents, watching the sky flush scarlet with a hue like lividity rising to an angry face.

This is from my most recent read and the meaning used in this instance is the first given meaning above.  I tend to think of this word more in terms of anger for some reason – the word Livid:

Livid (adj.)

Early 15c., “of a bluish-leaden color,” from Old French livide (13c.) and directly from Latin lividus “of a bluish color, black-and-blue,” figuratively “envious, spiteful, malicious,” from livere “be bluish,” earlier *slivere, from PIE *sliwo-, suffixed form of root *sleiə- “bluish” (source also of Old Church Slavonic and Russian sliva “plum;” Lithuanian slyvas “plum;” Old Irish li, Welsh lliw “color, splendor,” Old English sla “sloe”).

As mentioned above I picked this up from my most recent read which is a book which completely hooked me with it’s strange cold horror like feel :

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (my review to follow shortly):

The echo

That’s it for this week.  If you’re taking part in both of these or either please don’t forget to link up.