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Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls
     

Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls

3.3 6
by Danielle Wood
 

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A series of contemporary fairy tales populated by wolves, witches, snakes, and an entirely new breed of heroine.

In this Brothers Grimm–meets–Bridget Jones collection of linked stories, Danielle Wood introduces readers to Rosie Little, a thoroughly modern Little Red Riding Hood who offers her sharp, rueful take on life, love, and everything in between

Overview

A series of contemporary fairy tales populated by wolves, witches, snakes, and an entirely new breed of heroine.

In this Brothers Grimm–meets–Bridget Jones collection of linked stories, Danielle Wood introduces readers to Rosie Little, a thoroughly modern Little Red Riding Hood who offers her sharp, rueful take on life, love, and everything in between.

Rosie knows better than most that some men are wolves at heart, that the snake in the grass is to be avoided, and that fairy-tale endings are usually, after all, only fairy tales. And yet stout-hearted Rosie reassures us that there are ways out of the deep dark forests of our own making in these survival tales of teenagers deflowered at parties, a young journalist who misses the chance to write a front-page story because she’s busy flirting with a married man, and two women who must cope with the loss of their babies.

A brand-new take on the age-old fairy tale, Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls will appeal especially to readers like Rosie, with “boots as stout as their hearts, and who are prepared to firmly lace them up (boots and hearts both) and step out into the wilds in search of what they desire.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Rosie, a Little Red Riding Hood type with lace-up Doc Martens instead of scones, narrates this story collection for the smart, strong female who can’t help getting into trouble…Wood’s prose reads as powerful, funny, and real…Rosie may have ‘a difficult relationship with the word eclectic,’ but that’s what this book is. In a good way. Grade: A-“
Entertainment Weekly

“…pretty irresistible…this is a gorgeous edition, a compact hardcover that begs to be read under a blanket while sipping a steaming drink spiked with something dark and a little dangerous…Wood has a knack for translating everyday moments into bewitching, detailed images that are at once classic and thoroughly contemporary.”
—Bookslut.com

“The book is fun, tightly-packed, and powerful. Women of all ages will love and treasure the stories it tells…Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls is an excellent read.”
The Feminist Review

“…emotionally pitch-perfect…[The stories] are funny and moving, and original enough to cover long-trampled territory like virginity and domestic abuse and seem new…get it and you’ll have the smartest book at the beach.”
Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Wood’s collection of linked short stories makes a delightful trek through the life of bad girl Rosie Little…A clever and wickedly amusing character…Wood’s writing is succinct, elegant, witty, and wonderfully suited to the form. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal STARRED review

"…quirky and playful, sort of a girl-power Lemony Snicket collection, albeit with significantly less comic miserablism…a modern collection for the kind of girls who wish chick-lit protagonists were generally cleverer, had more diverse interests, and could discourse on ‘nominative determinism’ with a (relatively) straight face.”
The Onion’s A.V. Club

“Rosie Little is sassy, feisty, and simultaneously, beguilingly naïve.”
West Australian

“Wood’s stories have the appeal of the ordinary — the pains and pleasures that all modern girls and women will recognize…And she has a talent for descriptions so accurate that we are by her side in an instant, laughing in recognition of exactly what she means. She is wry and funny and unpretentious — we trust her voice implicitly.”
Sydney Morning Herald

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596922525
Publisher:
MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
08/24/2007
Pages:
275
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

ELEPHANTIASIS
A chronic form of filariasis, due to lymphatic obstruction, characterised by enormous enlargement of the parts affected
--Macquarie Dictionary
My cousin Meredith has elephantiasis. To say this is not to imply that she is fat, though, coincidentally, she is. Not just a little overweight, but quite fat. Meredith has the kind of body that means shopping for clothes in the Big is Beautiful section; that entails judging carefully the width of chairs with arms. Hers is the kind of flesh that feels, sliding over it in supermarkets, in doctors' waiting rooms or worse, the Family Planning Clinic, the averting glances of whip-thin girls with blonde ponytails and long necks with which to flick them.

It's not only Meredith that has elephantiasis. Her villa unit -- one of a set of brick and tile triplets nestled on a landscaped block -- has elephantiasis also. In the lounge room, the suite is piled with plump cushions embroidered, cross-stitched, latch-hooked, printed and painted with elephants. Others are simply in the shape of elephants. Sentinel to the hearth are two mahogany elephants, which, by virtue of timber that is unrefined and almost hairy, bears a family resemblance to their ancestor, the woolly mammoth. The mantelpiece holds a passing parade of jade, serpentine, onyx, ebony and marble elephants. Elephants have even made it into the bathroom, where the plastic bodies of Babar and Celeste are filled with bubble bath. In the kitchen, the fridge door flutters with no fewer than six fliers (the one that arrived by chance in Meredith's own post augmented by five others passed on by thoughtful friends), all seeking donations to help an unfortunate Thai elephant, the victim of a landmine explosion, in need of a prosthetic foot. Each of the fliers is attached to the fridge with a separate elephant- shaped fridge magnet.

Meredith wonders at how quickly the elephant effect gained momentum. The first elephant, a palm-sized figurine carved in ivory-pale wood, was from no-one of particular consequence. The giver had sat next to Meredith in a personal development seminar, perhaps five years ago. She was a woman with raspy greying hair and a long crooked body which she was always shifting in her chair, as if simply sitting caused her pain in her bones. The woman mentioned she was planning a holiday to Africa, and Meredith -- outside in the car park after the seminar was over -- gave her a blow-up neck pillow for the plane journey. Meredith had found the pillow uncomfortable, and so it had been lying, deflated, in the boot of her car for months.

The second elephant was a soft toy, pale grey and plush. It was also a thankyou gift, this time from a neighbour whose plumes of agapanthus Meredith watered while the neighbour was away nursing her sick mother. To this day Meredith does not know whether the neighbour chose the soft toy in response to the wooden African elephant on the (then relatively uncluttered) mantelpiece, or whether it was a purely coincidental choice. In any case, after that the elephantiasis spread like a virus to birthdays and Christmases, even to Easter, as friends, family and colleagues were seized by the thematic simplicity of it all.
WHITE ELEPHANT
An annoyingly useless possession
--Macquarie Dictionary
The truth is that Meredith does not even like elephants, and never did particularly. Before they took over her life, Meredith had for elephants no special feelings. Now that the elephantiasis is advanced, her house a shrine to the order Proboscidea, she resents them. Perhaps, she thinks sometimes, the elephantiasis was a punishment for an act of bad faith: giving away a travel pillow that she already knew to be uncomfortable. She feels, however, that the punishment has gone far enough, since it is now her entire existence that is stretched out of shape, swollen up and distorted with elephants.

Could she have halted the stampede? Yes, almost certainly. She could, at some point, have mentioned that she would prefer to collect butterflies. Or springboks. In her most soul-bare moments she knows why she did not, does not. And it's not only because she is naturally conciliatory, and polite in a style that is grateful for a gift, no matter how awful. It's because she knows that her friends, family and colleagues see this (imagined) fondness of hers for elephants as proof of her jolliness. It is evidence of her good-natured acceptance of her fatness. A huge joke against herself. There she is, an elephantine woman surrounding herself with familiars. And a jolly fat woman without jolliness is left, she understands, with only one adjective.
A Word from Rosie Little
ON TOTEMIC WORSHIP

Gift shops thrive on people who have chosen -- or, as in the case of Meredith, have had chosen for them -- an animal totem. Perhaps it is a desire of the domesticated human to connect with an inner wildness that makes African safari animals such popular choices. Giraffes, lions and elephants are usually available as small carved wooden idols, keyrings, pencil cases with zippers down their backs, erasers, blown-glass trinkets and stuffed toys. Elephants, considered lucky, are more likely than the others to be found as tiny silver charms for a bracelet, tinkling against hearts, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, money bags, and wishbones.

The Howards, who reside at Castle Howard of Brideshead Revisited fame, collect hippopotamuses. I once saw the hippos displayed in the castle's entrance portico, a frippery amid the ancient Greek statues, the overarching frescos, the great, heavy gilt of it all. In a glass cabinet are comic china hippopotamuses decked out for golfing, an elaborate Fabergé hippopotamus, and a group of serene grazing hippopotamuses etched into glass by a leading London artisan. Some of the hippopotamuses were given by the Howards to one another as anniversary gifts, while others have come from well-wishers who know the couple's proclivity for the animals and have no doubt thought of the couple when they've stumbled across an unusual one. The Howards are pleased to say that one of their favourite hippos -- a wooden carving with large ears -- was purchased for one pound and fifty pence at an Oxfam store. But they regret that they cannot have on display, due to its limited shelf-life, the charming carved-potato hippopotamus that was once sent to them by an admirer.

THE MEMORY OF AN ELEPHANT
--proverbial saying
For Meredith, the single worst thing about being a primary schoolteacher is the last day of the school year. On that day the children arrive, all glowing with the joy of giving, presents for teacher in hand. Even the grottiest boys are coy and sweet with gift-wrapped anticipation. Among the presents Meredith receives there is always a mug with an elephant's trunk as its handle. Some of these mugs are slip-cast with Dumbo-type elephants that have fat, pale-grey curves and pink inner ears. Others are of bone china, and bear more serious elephants with trunks finely ridged and delicate pale slivers for tusks. Usually, too, there is a cushion cover, lately in Indian-sari style with small circular mirrors blanket-stitched to the elephants' pink and orange saddles.

Meredith teaches at a private school, and there are newly moneyed parents who like to make expansive gestures of their gratitude. As a result her courtyard water feature (placed according to feng shui principles) is ringed by a conference of solemn pachyderms of plaster and sandstone, soapstone and granite.

When Meredith was nine years old, the same age as the children she now teaches, her mother Rhona took her to the hospital to visit her Auntie Pat, who had just given birth to the baby Rosemary (yes, that would be me). On the way to the hospital Meredith and her mother stopped at a newsagency to buy a card. Meredith, a tall child without ankles and with dimples for knees, was allowed to choose. She was drawn to a small square card with a marshmallow-pink pig surrounded by tufts of green grass, sporting a green polka-dot bow between its peaked ears. It was a happy-looking pig, and Meredith thought that the arrival of a cousin was a happy sort of occasion. She picked out the card and gave it happily to her mother, who crossly shoved it back down into the card rack, dog-earing a corner of it.

'You can't give a woman a card like that, Meredith! You might as well call her a pig!'

This was one of a number of psychic slaps that Rhona was unwittingly to give her daughter. Meredith has never forgotten that incident in the newsagency, and as a result of it is always careful not to buy greeting cards with images that might be considered, even in any obscure or tangential way, inappropriate. And every year on the last day of school, after defeating the pit-deep dread that makes her want to vomit or at least call in sick, she takes herself reluctantly to work. She smiles and thanks sincerely each exuberant gift-giver. But she thinks, as she unwraps each parcel, 'you might as well call me an elephant'.
Elephants do not mate for life
--Elephant Information Repository
For a time, Meredith had a boyfriend called Adrian Purdy. He was an information technology teacher at a high school adjacent to her primary school, and it is my strong suspicion that he never entirely discarded his teenage fascination with role-playing games. The internet filled the hole in his life which had opened when his old university mates moved on from Dungeons & Dragons to golf. Although he and Meredith were together for many years, Adrian continued to live with his mother. This was largely because his mother took the view that couples who lived together before they were married did not deserve wedding presents. They had not, she said, sacrificed anything.

Jean Purdy had the long torso, short legs and lopsided gait that were, Adrian told Meredith, characteristic of female trolls. (Who were, Adrian told Meredith, the original 'trollops'.) Meredith found it hard not to picture Jean -- especially when she delivered her doubt-free treatises on everything from the sanctity of smacking children to the benefits of fibre, the cure for leaf-curl in lemon trees and the cheek of indigenous people expecting apologies for things done in their best interests -- standing beneath a bridge, her skull knobbled with horns.

Jean was as hard and defined as a stone, and she left Meredith feeling bruised. Jean was loud, while Meredith spoke as if she might diminish her size by keeping her voice small. Jean began dieting discussions with the prefix, 'Now I hope you won't mind me saying, but…' And behind those words Meredith heard the tearing of fabric, the ripping away of her veil of invisibility. Jean might as well have been saying: Of course they notice, Meredith…rip…Do you really think anybody could be looking at you…rip…and not be thinking…fat… fat…FAT!

After a while Meredith learned that when she heard 'Now I hope you won't mind me saying, but…' it was time to go. Her body remained there -- monumentally there -- in Jean's fussy Laura Ashley living room. But her mind departed the scene, leaving the soft flesh of the body to absorb the blows.

Meet the Author

Danielle Wood’s first novel, The Alphabet of Light and Dark, was short-listed for the 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in the Best First Book category (Southeast Asia and South Pacific Region) and nominated for the 2005 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Wood is also the recipient of the 2002 Australian/Vogel Literary Award, Australia’s richest prize for an unpublished manuscript by a writer under the age of thirty-five.

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