The Onion Girl

The Onion Girl

4.7 27
by Charles de Lint

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In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford

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In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips--Jilly, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in the city's shadows. Now, at last, de Lint tells Jilly's own story...for behind the painter's fey charm lies a dark secret and a past she's labored to forget. And that past is coming to claim her now.

"I'm the onion girl," Jilly Coppercorn says. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." She's very, very good at running. But life has just forced Jilly to stop.

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Editorial Reviews
"I'm the onion girl," Jilly Coppercorn insists. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." But just like an onion, the story of Jilly Coppercorn lures us into its mysteries; its colorful coils of insistent elaboration; its pull into its deepest, self-apparent secret.
Publishers Weekly
Life is truly an act of magic in Canadian author de Lint's triumphant return to Newford, his fictitious North American city, with its fascinating blend of urban faerie and dreamworld adventures. When Jilly Coppercorn becomes a victim of a hit-and-run driver, her happy life as a popular Newford artist comes to a screeching halt. Half of her body, including her painting hand, no longer works properly, and the prospect of a long recovery, despite supportive friends, depresses her. Her dreams - the only escape she enjoys - connect her to friend Sophie's dreamland of Mabon. Another friend, of otherworldly origin, Joe Crazy Dog, calls it manido-aki, a place where magic dwells amid mythic creatures and e-landscapes far away from the World As It Is. Joe also knows that's where Jilly must heal what has broken inside herself to speed recovery of her physical body. Complications ensue when her friends discover that someone broke into the artist's apartment after the accident and destroyed her famous faerie paintings. De Lint introduces yet another intriguing character, the raunchy, wild and furious Raylene, as dark as Jilly is light, who deepens the mystery. Is she Jilly's shadow self, or a connection to a past Jilly would rather forget? This crazy-quilt fantasy moves from the outer to the inner world with amazing ease and should satisfy new and old fans of this prolific and gifted storyteller, whose ability to peel away layers of story could earn him the title "The Onion Man." (Nov. 1). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Is someone trying to murder artist Jillian Coppercorn? As she lies in her hospital bed, paralyzed from a hit-and-run accident, someone trashes her studio, destroying her renowned faerie paintings. Jilly's artwork is inspired by subconscious trips to an alternative world she calls the dreamlands, a place full of literary, mythical, and surreal landscapes and characters. There she can still walk about, able-bodied. She is surrounded by friends, most with a foot in both worlds, all ready to protect her from a stalker. In this New Age environment, Jilly perhaps possesses a special magic yet also harbors secrets from a dark past. She is told that her psychological wounds must heal before her physical ones can. Juxtaposed with this fantasy tale is a grittier story about two sisters suffering in an abusive white-trash family. One sister runs away, leaving the younger one to feel betrayed and abandoned, although both separately endure years of hardships in the seamy world of prostitution and crime. Over time, the resourceful but vengeful sister discovers magic and access to the dreamlands. The two plots collide as Jilly confronts the layers of her past and is forced to make a crucial decision. These characters and their imaginary city of Newford have been featured in many of the author's writings. Here they are developed further in an enjoyable modern-day fantasy adventure. The well-written but graphic depictions of life in the edgy world of switchblades and sleaze recommend this book to more mature fantasy fans. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Tor,512p, $27.95. Ages 15 to Adult. Reviewer: Kevin Beach SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
Library Journal
Jilly Coppercorn, a talented painter whose works reveal the hidden life of the magical Canadian town of Newford, lies in a hospital, the victim of an apparent car accident. As her friends gather around her, Jilly's own story comes to the fore, filled with the mysteries and secrets she has hidden from herself as well as from others. Continuing his series of novels set in a modern world that borders on a dimension of myth and legend, de Lint (Moonheart) highlights the life of one of his most popular characters. A master storyteller, he blends Celtic, Native American, and other cultures into a seamless mythology that resonates with magic and truth. A good selection for most fantasy collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another of de Lint's urban fantasy novels (Forests of the Heart, 2000, etc.) set in the imaginary city of Newford, this one centering on artist and philanthropist Jilly Coppercorn. Jilly, long in touch with her magical side, captures the beings of fairyland in her paintings; but she's able to visit fairyland only in her dreams. As the story opens, Jilly, nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver, lies half-paralyzed in a hospital bed. Despite the efforts of her friends-artists, musicians, those she's helped and befriended over the years-Jilly, reluctant to face existence as the Broken Girl, spends more and more time in fairyland. As a young girl, she fled her drunken parents and Del, her rapist elder brother, only to slip into prostitution and drug addiction. When finally she got straightened out, she went back to find the younger sister she feels she abandoned. But Raylene was long gone, raped by Del in turn until her friend Pinky gave her a switchblade and the courage to use it. Now, years later, Raylene's back, nursing her hatred for the sister she feels abandoned her, breaking into Jilly's studio to trash her paintings. Worse, Raylene also can enter the dreamlands, where she's a wolf and a ruthless hunter, feeding on the blood of unicorns. Another absorbing tale, as believable and insightful as they come, yet there's still an unsatisfying lack of weight-even the ancient spirits don't pack much of a wallop.
From the Publisher

“De Lint is a romantic; he believes in the great things, faith, hope, and charity (especially if love is included in that last), but he also believes in the power of magic-or at least the magic of fiction-to open our eyes to a larger world.” —Edmonton Journal

“In de Lint's capable hands, modern fantasy becomes something other than escapism. It becomes folk song, the stuff of urban myth.” —The Phoenix Gazette

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Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Newford Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.13(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt


Newford, April 1999

Once upon a time

I don't know what makes me turn. Some sixth sense, prickling the hairs at the nape of my neck, I guess. I see the headlights. They fill my world and I feel like a deer, trapped in their glare. I can't move. The car starts to swerve away from me, but it's already too late.

It's weird how everything falls into slow motion. There seems to be time to do anything and everything, and yet no time at all. I wait for my life to flash before my eyes, but all I get is those headlights bearing down on me.

There's the squeal of tires.

A rush of wind in my ears.

And then the impact.

Copyright © 2001 by Charles de Lint

Meet the Author

Born in Holland in 1951, Charles de Lint grew up in Canada, with a few years off in Turkey, Lebanon, and Switzerland.

Although his first novel was 1984's The Riddle of the Wren, it was with Moonheart, published later that same year, that de Lint made his mark, and established him at the forefront of "urban fantasy," modern fantasy storytelling set on contemporary city streets. Moonheart was set in and around "Newford," an imaginary modern North American city, and many of de Lint's subsequent novels have been set in Newford as well, with a growing cast of characters who weave their way in and out of the stories. The Newford novels include Spirit Walk, Memory and Dream, Trader, Someplace To Be Flying, Forests of the Heart, The Onion Girl, and Spirits in the Wires. In addition, de Lint has published several collections of Newford short stories, including Moonlight and Vines, for which he won the World Fantasy Award. Among de Lint's many other novels are Mulengro, Jack the Giant-Killer, and The Little Country.

Married since 1980 to his fellow musician MaryAnn Harris, Charles de Lint lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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Onion Girl 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Its the first that I ever read of Charles de Lint. I stumbled across it one book shopping day and I was attracted to the ladie on the cover. I can say I hated it when it ended. I fell in love with Jilly and all her friends. I have other Charles de Lint books, even one that my boyfriend got signed for me for my bday. Its awesome. I will read anything with Jilly in it. Well actually anything by him. If you want to really good book by him thats kinda mysterious get From a Whisper to a Scream. I think its under a fake name though. Look into it. Its great. De Lint work pumps me up.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Artist Jilly Coppercorn is quite a talent whose paintings make the biggest cynic believe the painter has visited fairyland. Her landscape and creatures seem very real, as if she visited Fairy. However, a hit and run driver leaves the talented artist semi paralyzed. Worse than her broken body is Jilly¿s broken spirit as her zest for life is as paralyzed as her body.

Jilly no longer wants to live in the human realm and turns to her dreams of fairyland as escapism just as she did as a girl to evade her drunken parents and her rapist elder brother Del. Jilly fell apart as a youngster, but when she finally got her act together and returned home, she found Raylene her younger sister hated her for abandoning her to rape by Del. Raylene still loathes Jilly and can enter fairyland where she feeds on unicorns targeting Jilly for death in that realm and subsequently the mundane world.

THE ONION GIRL looks deeply inside he psyche of its¿ two lead female characters especially Jilly who has appeared in other Charles de Lint tales. Additionally, the novel persuades the audience to believe in fairyland, but surprisingly the tale goes at a slow pace for what sounds like an action fantasy. The fans see the reactions of Jilly and Raylene to setbacks on the human plane and how that impacts their behavior in fairyland. Though poignant and insightful, fans of epic fantasy will not enjoy this tale but those readers who relish a psychological character study using fantasy elements to enhance the profundity of the plot will love this special tale.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Not what youd expect but pulls you deep into its world and makes you wonder about the magic in your own world. An easy read that will keep you on your toes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent tale about Jilly Coppercorn. De Lint has crafted a captivating tale about one of his readers favorite characters. A moving and heartfelt book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would usually rate anything by DeLint at a 4 or 5. He is one of the best fantasy writers of this generation and there is no doubt of that. I have read most of his books, Dreams Underfoot got me through boarding school, and Trader and The Little Country are two of the best stories I have ever read. When it comes to the Onion Girl, however, I think that DeLint threw himself head first into darker, grittier fantasy than he usually does. There are still elements such as the fairies, cousins, spirits, and whatnot, but the story focuses on Jilly Coppercorn first and foremost. For those of you who do not know Jilly, she is possibly one of the best-crafted characters in any fantasy series. She does not possess magical powers, she isn't some special chosen hero, she's just an artist who struggles with day-to-day life and who is so bubbly and joyous that the fae seem to just love her. It's very difficult to not like her at all, in fact, and that's where this story takes a nosedive. The Onion Girl is the story of Jilly Coppercorn fully laid out, instead of fragmented as it was in previous iterations. We see her broken down, revealed, and metaphorically naked to the world. We learn of her terrible childhood and lifelong pains, and altogether we learn to see her as more of a human being. Sadly, it is of my personal opinion that DeLint might have abused his character just a bit too much here, as some parts were very difficult for me to read (out of revulsion, not poor writing) and overall the whole story made me very uneasy and mildly depressed by the end. It's a great story in and of itself, but from a personal standpoint I found it to be a bit too harsh.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sekhautet0 More than 1 year ago
The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint is my new favorite Newford novel, even though it's an older one. de Lint does a remarkable job explaining the origins of the character, Jilly Coppercorn, the beloved fae artist of his fictional town. As usual, de Lint blends world mythology into a modern tale seamlessly. I personally related to Jilly as the proverbial onion girl, as I am sure all of us can. We have all overcome painful obstacles throughout our lives. And it is how we deal with those challenges that shape our hearts and souls. Jilly Coppercorn has a beautiful soul, as do all her friends that live in Newford. If you love art, the fae, and a tale from the heart, this one is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me a huge Charles de Lint fan
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spookittyboo More than 1 year ago
This book is brave. It is steeped in pain and sprinkled with magic. A great book for those who've endured a painful past. An enlightening book for those that haven't. My first read by Charles de Lint. I will be reading more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PhoenixFalls More than 1 year ago
Charles de Lint is a good writer. He has created an interesting, multi-faceted world and interesting, multi-faceted characters through dozens of novels and short stories set in his fictional city of Newford. His prose is always excellent, getting the job of maintaining narrative tone and telling the story done without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. But somehow, The Onion Girl just doesn't have a whole lot of impact. I am reviewing it now after reading it for the second time, but I wasn't positive I had read it before until 80 pages from the end -- and the first time I read it was less than three years ago. I can't say for sure, because this is the only novel I have read by de Lint, but I suspect he may simply be stronger at short-story length than when he expands his focus. His short stories (at least the ones in Dreams Underfoot, which is the only short story collection of his that I have read) are beautiful, heartbreaking, and urgent. The characters have resonance at that length -- Jilly particularly, who, as the back of this novel says, is the beating heart of de Lint's diverse cast of characters. But somehow when de Lint looked to write Jilly's story, it felt like he took a step back from her and the rest of the characters I had met and loved in Dreams Underfoot. The tone is just a little distant whenever Jilly, Joe, Sophia, and Wendy take over the narration, and that distance made it hard for me to become truly invested in what was going on. The only person exempt from this authorial distancing was the character of Raylene who, as far as I know, is one of the few characters invented specifically for this novel. Her bits of narration were everything I missed in the rest of the novel: distinctly her own, and alive in a way none of the other characters managed to be. The story moved when it was in Raylene's hands, while it seemed to simply be meandering in anyone else's. I wonder if the reason for this is something de Lint talks about briefly in his Author's Note. He apologizes to the reader for including the entire text of his short story "In the House of My Enemy" because "having dealt with this element of backstory once already, I didn't have the heart to recast the events for this book simply to say it in new words. Jilly goes through enough already with what happens to her in this novel." The story fits fairly seamlessly into the novel, and it is the one bit of Jilly's narrative that has Raylene's sense of urgency about it. That makes me wonder if perhaps de Lint simply felt too bad about what he was putting Jilly through to properly render all her pain and heartache once again. Still, despite that odd sense of abstraction, anyone who has followed de Lint's Newford stories should read The Onion Girl; there's certainly nothing bad about the novel, and if it's a little distant, it still fills in many blanks about the characters we have grown to love.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
the first title i read by charles and i will definately be back for more..
Guest More than 1 year ago
My favorite by De Lint. A story that resonates so much truth you will be stunned.