Winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Twenty years ago, teenager Tara Martin disappeared in the dense English forest known as the Outwoods, leaving her parents and her brother, Peter, to fear the unthinkable.
But on Christmas Day, the doorbell rings and there Tara stands—disheveled, unapologetic, and not looking a day over sixteen. It’s a miracle, but Peter is skeptical, especially when Tara claims that she was abducted by fairies. As those who loved and missed Tara attempt to understand where she’s been for two decades, they begin to ask the same question: Has Tara lost her sanity … or have they?
|Publisher:||Gollancz, Victor Limited|
About the Author
Graham Joyce, a winner of the O. Henry Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award, lives in Leicester, England, with his family. His books include The Silent Land, Smoking Poppy, Indigo (a New York Times Notable Book of 2000), The Tooth Fairy (a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998), and Requiem, among others.
Read an Excerpt
But we are spirits of another sort.
Oberon, King of Shadows. William Shakespeare
In the deepest heart of England there is a place where everything is at fault. That is to say that the land rests upon a fault; and there, ancient rocks are sent hurtling from the deep to the surface of the earth with such force that they break free like oceanic waves, or like monstrous sea creatures coming up for air. Some say that the land has still to settle and that it continues to roil and breathe fumes, and that out of these fumes pour stories. Others are confident that the old volcanoes are long dead, and that all its tales are told.
Of course, everything depends on who is telling the story. It always does. I have a story and though there are considerable parts I’ve had to imagine, the way I saw it was as follows.
It was Christmas Day of that year and Dell Martin hovered at the double-glazed PVC window of his tidy home, conducting a survey of the bruised clouds and concluding that it might just snow; and if it did snow then someone would have to pay. At the very beginning of the year Dell had laid down two crisp twenty-pound notes on the bookie’s Formica counter, just as he had done every year for the past ten. The odds changed slightly each year and this time he’d settled good odds at seven-to-one.
For a White Christmas to be official—that is, to force the bookmakers to pay—a flake of snow must be observed to fall between midnight on December 24 and midnight on December 25 at four designated sites. The sites are the cities of London, Glasgow, Cardiff, and Manchester. The snow is not required to lie deep nor crisp nor evenly upon the ground and it doesn’t matter if it’s mixed with rain. One solitary flake would do it, fallen and melted, observed and recorded.
Living in a place somewhere between all of those great cities, Dell had never collected in all those ten years, nor had he seen a single flake of Christmas Day snow hanging in the air of his hometown.
“Are you going to come and carve?” Mary called from the kitchen.
This year they were having goose. After decades of turkey dinners on Christmas Day they were having a change, because a change is as good as a rest, and sometimes you needed a rest even from Christmas. Nevertheless the table had been laid out, just as in previous years. Crisp linen and the best cutlery. Two heavy crystal wineglasses that, year round, were kept in a box and stowed at the back of a kitchen cupboard.
Dell always carved, and he carved well. It was an art. He’d carved well when the kids were small, and he carved well now that there was only Mary and himself to carve for. He rubbed his hands together in a friction of delight, passing through to a kitchen warm and steamy from simmering pans. The cooked goose rested under silver foil on a large serving plate. Dell pulled a blade from the knife block and angled it to the light at the window. “Gone a bit dark over yonder,” he said. “Might snow.”
Mary was draining vegetables through a sieve. “Might snow? You haven’t put money on it, have you?”
“Hell, no.” He whisked the foil cover off the goose and rotated the plate to get a better purchase with his knife. “Just a thought.”
Mary tapped her sieve on the lip of the sink as Dell began to carve. “Hasn’t snowed on Christmas Day in ten years. Plates warming in the oven. Bring them through?”
When Dell had finished carving, each plate boasted a plump goose leg and two neatly carved slices of breast. There were roasted potatoes and four types of vegetables, all steaming in serving dishes. The gravy boat was piping and there was stuffing and sausages wrapped in bacon, and cranberry sauce.
“I went in for an I-talian this year,” Dell said, pouring Mary a glass of ruby-red wine and then one for himself. He pronounced the I in Italian the way you might pronounce eye-witness. “I-talian wine. Hope that goes well with the goose.”
“I’m sure it will be lovely.”
“Thought we’d have a change from the French. Though I could easily have had a South African. There was a South African on offer. At the supermarket.”
“Let’s see, shall we?” Mary said, offering her glass for the clinking. “Cheers!”
And it was the cheers moment, that gentle touching of the crystalware, that Dell hated the most.
Feared it and detested it. Because even though nothing was ever stated and even though the faultless food was served up with wide smiles and the clinking of glasses was conducted with genuine affection from both parties, there was always at this moment of ritual a fleck in his wife’s eye. A tiny instant of catch-light, razor-sharp, and he knew he’d better talk over it pretty damn quick.
“What do you think of the I-talian?”
“Lovely. Beautiful. A good choice.”
“Because there was also a bottle from Argentina. Special offer. And I nearly went for that.”
“Argentina? Well, there’s one we could try another time.”
“But you like this?”
“Love it. Lovely. Come on, let’s see what you make o’ this goose.”
Wine was one of the fixtures of Christmas dinner that had changed over the years. When the kids were small both he and Mary had been content with a glass of beer, maybe a schooner of lager. But beer had been displaced by wine on the table for Christmas Day. Serving dishes were a recent addition, too. Back in those days everything was heaped on the plates and brought to the table, a ready-assembled island of food floating in a sea of gravy. Cranberry sauce was exotic once. When the children were small.
“Well, what do you think of that goose?”
“Bloody beautiful. And cooked to perfection.”
A tiny flush of pleasure appeared on Mary’s cheek. After all these years of marriage, Dell could do this. Just the right words.
“You know what, Mary? All these Christmases we could have been having goose. Hey, look out of the window!”
Mary turned. Outside, a few tiny flakes of snow were billowing. It was Christmas Day and it was snowing; here, at least.
“You have had a bet, haven’t you?” Mary said.
Dell was about to answer when they both heard a light tapping at the front door. Most people rang the electrical bell, but today someone was knocking.
Dell had his knife in the mustard pot. “Who the hell is that on Christmas Day?”
“No idea. What a time to call!”
“I’ll get it.”
Dell stood and put his napkin on his seat. Then he went down the hall. There was a figure outlined in the frosted glass of the inner door. Dell had to release a small chain and unlock the inner door before opening the porch door.
A young woman, perhaps in her early twenties, gazed back at him from behind dark glasses. Through the dark glass he could make out wide, unblinking eyes. She wore a Peruvian-style woolen hat with earflaps and tassels. The tassels made him think of bells.
“Hello, duckie,” Dell said briskly, not unfriendly. It was Christmas Day after all.
The woman said nothing. She gazed back at him with a timid, almost fearful smile on her lips.
“Happy Christmas, love. What can I do for you?”
The woman shuffled from one foot to another, not removing her gaze. Her clothes were odd; she seemed to be some kind of hippie. She blinked behind her dark glasses and he thought she looked familiar. Then it occurred to him that she was maybe collecting for some charitable cause. He put his hand in his pocket.
At last she spoke. “Hello, Dad,” she said.
Mary came bustling from behind, trying to peer around him. “Who is it?” she said.
The woman switched her gaze from Dell to Mary. Mary stared hard at her, seeing something familiar in the young woman behind the dark lenses. There came a slight gagging sound from Mary’s throat; then Mary fainted clean away. Dell stumbled and only half caught her as she fell. Mary’s unconscious body hit the stone tiles at the threshold with a thud and a sigh of wind.
On the other side of Charnwood Forest at a ramshackle cottage on the road to Quorn, Peter Martin was stacking the dishwasher. Christmas dinner had been trashed a couple of hours ago and he was still wearing an acid-red paper crown from a Christmas cracker but he’d forgotten it was there. His wife, Genevieve, had her bare feet up on the sofa, exhausted by the responsibility of coordinating the domestic crisis of Christmas in a house with a dreamy husband, four kids, two dogs, a mare in the paddock, a rabbit, and a guinea pig, plus sundry invading mice and rats that kept finding inventive routes into their kitchen. In many ways it was a house weathering a permanent state of siege.
Peter was a gentle, red-haired bear of a man. Standing at six-four in his socks, he moved everywhere with a slight and nautical sway, but even though he was broad across the chest there was something centered and reassuring about him, like an old ship’s mast cut from a single timber. He felt bad that they’d had Christmas dinner without having his mother and father over. Dell and Mary had been invited, of course, but there had been a ridiculous dispute about what time dinner should be served. Genevieve wanted to sit down on the stroke of one so that they could all get their coats on in the afternoon and drive up to Bradgate Park or Beacon Hill for a healthy blast of wind. Mary and Dell liked to eat later, and at leisure, and certainly not before three; they’d done all the walking and blasting they cared for. There wasn’t actually a row. What followed was more of an impasse and a sulk, followed by a default decision no party was happy with, that this year they would sit down to separate dinners.
Peter and Genevieve anyway had a daughter who was fifteen, a boy thirteen, and two more girls of seven and five. Whenever they went over to Mary and Dell’s they garrisoned the place, moving in like a brutal occupying army. It was always easier and more relaxed to stay put in the cottage, and this year that’s what they did.
Meanwhile Peter had bought thirteen-year-old Jack an air rifle for Christmas, and Jack was sitting in the yard hoping for mice or rats to turn up. He lounged on an old exploded sofa his dad hadn’t gotten around to taking to the dump. Like a grizzled old-timer from a shotgun cabin he held the butt of the gun on his thigh and pointing skyward.
Peter put his head outside the back kitchen door. “Don’t wave that fucking thing around. If you catch anyone I’ll rip your head off for sure,” Peter said.
“Don’t worry, Dad, I’m not gonna shoot my fuckin’ sisters.”
“And don’t swear. Right?”
“And don’t wave it around.”
Peter went back inside to stack the dishwasher. He went through to the trashed dining room and was dithering what to do with the carcass of the turkey when the phone rang. It was Dell.
“All right, Dad? I was just going to call you. When I get the kids lined up to say happy Christmas and all that.”
“Never mind that, Pete. You’d better get over here.”
“What? I’ve had a few drinks. We’re about to go for a walk.”
“Come over anyway. Your sister’s here.”
“You heard me. I said your sister’s here.”
Peter felt dizzy. The room swam. “Dad, what are you saying?”
“She just showed up.”
“She can’t have.”
“Come over, Pete. Your mother’s had a bad turn.”
“Dad, what the hell is going on?”
“Please come over, son. Please come over.”
There was a note in his father’s voice he’d never heard before. Dell was clearly very close to tears. “Can you just tell me what’s happened?”
“I can’t tell you anything because I don’t know anything. Your mother fainted. She fell badly.”
“Okay. I’m coming.”
What People are Saying About This
“Here is a keenly observed tale of a family in crisis, one that mixes fantasy and psychiatry in a potent cocktail.”
Stephen King: The Best Books I Read in 2012, Entertainment Weekly
"Joyce’s ravishing novel is about disruption and grief, about the risks of being charmed or stolen away from what we love. Though he draws faithfully on English folklore, Joyce has clearly gone beyond book-learning and made the “crossing at twilight” to the fairy kingdom himself. His writing is enthralling, agile and effortless."
New York Times
“Graham Joyce's new novel Some Kind of Fairy Tale is one of the most impressive fantasy books we've read in ages…. Graham Joyce has obviously steeped himself in fairy-tale lore, and his attention to detail (and to the significance of those details) is pretty astonishing. But what really makes Some Kind of Fairy Tale stand head and shoulders above most other fantasy novels I've read lately is the strong focus on the characters. Joyce's slow, careful narrative style draws you in to a story that's as much a family drama as it is a magical adventure…. Joyce takes a steady, masterful approach that explores one simple story from every angle, holding it up to the light until we see the hidden images revealed by each separate facet. Joyce has written a brilliant book that will make you think about the meaning of fairytales in a new way.”
“Ultimately, it isn’t Joyce’s clever self-awareness that pushes Fairy Tale into the stratosphere. It’s the way he weaves these twisty ideas into a straightforward, achingly resonant story of a broken man who’s found his long-lost sister. His prose and dialogue, even more than usual, are carved with balance, clarity, and subtlety. As a writer, Joyce is often praised as “unsentimental.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Sentiment underscores everything in Fairy Tale, from Tara’s struggle to establish her sanity to the heartsick people who loved who she was—and are trying to love what she’s become. That sentiment, though, is rarely precious, and it never comes cheap. As its title trumpets, Some Kind Of Fairy Tale meditates on the nature of what it means to tell stories. But wisely and hauntingly, it does so through a spellbinding story of its own.” (grade A)
“Joyce’s fiction is an unusual—and unusually satisfying—hybrid. He’s interested in all the things that preoccupy literary novelists: finely drawn characters, the beauty and sadness of life’s inevitable transitions, families in all their ambiguous and endlessly fascinating complexity. His prose is precise and unsentimental. Yet into the fabric of these relationships he weaves elements of folklore and myth, which he presents both as real and as manifestations of primal aspects of the human experience.”
“Haunting, brilliant…Few writers today can match Joyce in evoking the beauty of that delicate balance, in conveying the fantasy of ordinary life or the ordinariness of the fantastic. People, pay attention.”
Gary K. Wolfe, Locus
"Dark and haunting."
The Free Lance–Star
“Absorbing…Keep an open mind.”
"Fans of novels featuring dark, haunted woods, overgrown English moors and changelings hidden in the dense brush will be absolutely delighted by the hypnotizing mystery of Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale. Joyce opens with the promising setup of a returned, thought-for-dead protagonist, blending reality with imagination as he explores what really happened to Tara Martin."
"Reading [Some Kind of Fairy Tale] by Graham Joyce is a little like stepping into an enormous, brilliantly camouflaged mantrap. At first, you don't even realize what's happened. Then, slowly, you discover that he has drawn you into a strange, dreamlike place, and you can't leave, even if doing so simply means closing the book. Not that you'd want to. Joyce's books are as seductive as anything you'll find in contemporary fiction."
"In sum, Some Kind of Fairy Tale is fantastically formed, complete with a gently portentous premise, a marvellous cast of characters, and a narrative as smart and self-reflexive as it is at first old-fashioned. Enigmatic and intellectual, yes, yet readily accessible and massively satisfying, Joyce’s latest is a joy."
"Reality and fairy tale are beautifully interwoven in this contemplative story about relationships, love, and dreams. In a unique blend of thriller and fantasy, Joyce creates a delightful page-turner that his fans and newcomers alike will find hard to put down."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At one time or another, we have all heard or read many different children's fairy tales. Many versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, amongst others, probably could be found around most parent's houses. Now, for some creative reason, Graham Joyce has decided to write a fairy tale for adults. My bet is, it too will become a treasured story for adults who enjoy great writing and a story yet untold! A beautiful, popular teenage girl, Tara, goes missing one day , just to turn up twenty years later without aging at all. Her rambling brother has settled down to the adult life of wife, children and work. Her parents have become gray headed oldsters. Her boyfriend has barely survived harassment for 'murdering her and refusing to tell anyone where her body was burried'. ----but no body , no conviction. Yet his life and friends have changed drastically. Where was Tara? How did she stay young? Will she tell the truth, is she perhaps an imposter, or is she just plain mentally disturbed? And as in most many fairy tales, will love win in the end? So starts the beginning of this very adult, and very fascinating and fanciful 'fairy tale' that all adult readers will be talking about if they have any curiosity or imagination at all. First book I've read by this author, but it won't be the last !
Beautifully written and keeps your interest until the very end.
I agree with the first reviewer..I look forward to reading all his books. I read this one in a day..
This was an interesting book and one I had hoped to enjoy more. On Christmas Day, Dell and Mary Martin are eating dinner when the doorbell rings. Standing on their doorstep is Tara, their daughter who disappeared 20 years ago. Tara appears not to have aged. Peter is her older brother, summoned to the house when Tara returns. Peter is furious with her especially when her explanation involves being taken to another world by a "fairy" as humans call them but they themselves do not use that word. Tara swears that she wanted to come back but there or only 2 times a year when their is an opening between the worlds. Tara thought she was gone for only 6 months. Peter thinks she is lying, her parents don't want to upset her. An then there is Richie, her boyfriend who was the prime suspect in her disappearance.Peter convinces Tara to see a psychologist, who thinks Tara suffered some kind of trauma and created a world in her head to escape it. Except no one can really explain why she has not aged. The story alternates between Tara telling her story, the doctor's write up of his visits with her, and Peter trying to deal with it all and make it up to Richie who was once his best friend.I wanted to like this book more than I did. I can't explain why I didn't love it, maybe it just wasn't the book for me or I expected something more magical. This isn't a book I would recommend to most people but I'm sure there are some that will enjoy it.
I started this review a few times and never knew how to structure it exactly. The plot is clear - it is all over the dust jacket - Tara disappeared 20 years ago and now just shows up - seemingly not aged and with a weird story to tell. The story involves fairies (although they don't like to be called that) which automatically sends the book into the fantasy category for most people... which is not exactly what we are dealing with here. The fantastical element fits better under the magical realism genre (or the ones around it) and even if it appears to be a big part of the story, it actually is not.It takes a while for the whole story to be narrated and intermingled with that we get the story of the time of the disappearance from the perspectives of the family and the old boyfriend. And while Tara is telling her story about the other world, we see a all too mundane story of what happens when a teenager disappears - the police that tries to find the culprit at all the wrong places, the shattered family, the consequences of what had happened, the friendships that get destroyed. The focus of the book shifts every chapter, spanning the decades and the characters' lives. Add to this a psychiatrist and an old lady that is not exactly what she seems to be and the fantastical element is getting even more lost. It is the end of the book that gets the threads together (as it should) and that removes the book from the mundane world. That's the time when everyone is making their choices... and where old choices need to be reevaluated and happiness and life lie in the aftermath of these decisions. The story wraps... but it is as mellow as the whole novel - you just know what will happen because there is no way for a real happy end which leaves the characters to look for the closest they can get. It's a lyrical novel (despite all the sex (in fairy land) and violence (in the dealings of the police 20 years earlier)) which just goes slowly and leads where you expect it to lead. I am not sure that the whole magical thing worked at all (it did not for me) - on one hand it allowed some developments but... it felt almost forced into the novel; almost as if the author wanted to write a magical novel so decided that the very mundane story can be combined with the idea. If we remove the magical part (or dismiss it as imagination and/or dreams), the story comes together much better. And even the end works - there will be no miracles but with them edited out, the end is as powerful (it probably need a twist to force Tara's hand but still...)Overall - a not so bad novel but I wish the author had just kept it mundane. On the other hand, I suspect that a lot of people will read it exactly for that mystical component... It's a new author for me and I enjoyed the style so I will try some of his other books - the style does save the novel here.
On Christmas Day a young woman reappears after missing for twenty years. Tara Martin disappeared in The Outwoods at the age of fifteen. Her family and the authorities blamed her boyfriend Richie. When she returns she is only a few months older than she was when she left and the story she tells is not one that can be easily believed.This story is a deftly written combination of fantasy and reality. Tara's story is a familiar one in fairy folklore, a lovely young woman is seduced by a handsome man and brought to a beautiful and strange world. She only stays there for six months but to her family it is twenty years. She partakes of the fairy food and drink and it changes her so that she can never fit in our world again. In the meantime her boyfriend, who was blamed for her disappearance, has become a burnt out rock guitar player living on booze and dope. Her brother Peter has married and has children. He is the solid rock of the family, he works as a ferrier and is the most practical character in the book. Peter takes Tara to a psychiatrist who dissects her story or "confabulation" as the doctor calls it. These chapters are very interesting and divert the reader from the fantasy aspects of the novel and into the real world. You are never quite sure what really happened to Tara until the very end. Her story is strange and ripe for Freudian analysis. She even doubts her own memories.Each chapter starts with a few lines from a poem, or song lyric or story related to fairy folklore. The excerpts that fascinated me the most where from the trial of Michael Cleary, a man who in 1895 burned his wife to death because he thought she was a fairy changeling. It amazes me that people really believed in fairies at one time. For some people it is an easy explanation for marital promblem or the death of a small child or other tragic events in there lives.When I first started to read this novel I thought it would be a cut and dried fantasy tale and took it for granted that Tara had been to a fairy world. I was pleasantly surprised when doubt started creeping in. The story is a compulsive read. The point of view changes in each chapter from Tara relating her story, to the psychiatrist saying what he thinks the story is really about, to Richie's retched life, to Peter's happy family life. The novel ends the only way it could end; slightly sad but satisfying.
This story has been told before a thousand times, and will no doubt be told a thousand more. Do not consider this to be a bad thing, for only a tale worth hearing is worth telling again and again. You will recognize the story, yet is is all new. Tara is a young girl who finds herself in a bind. She gives her situationmuch thought, and makes a decision on how to proceed. She decides that it it time to part ways with her boyfriend. Her decision to do so in a beautifulwooded area will change her life. When there is a knock on the door on Christmas day, Dell and Mary Martin are surprised to find a teenaged girl standing out in the cold. She looks exactlylike the daughter who went missing twenty years ago. The beguiling story behind this sudden appearance will compel you to keep reading until the end.
When Tara Martin reappears on her parents¿ doorstep twenty years after her mysterious disappearance from the ancient Outwoods forest, no one really believes her story that she was ¿away with the faeries¿ for six months with no memory beyond that. Although she hasn¿t aged physically at all, the family and a noted psychiatrist whom Tara agrees to see all believe there are medical and psychological explanations for her loss of memory and arrested physical development. But who is right? As readers are told from the beginning, ¿. . . everything depends on who is telling the story. It always does.¿With equal parts mystery and magic, Graham Joyce¿s Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a beguiling blend of realistic fiction and well-researched folk lore that could be called realistic fantasy. Whatever you call it, Tara¿s story will enchant and haunt you long after you¿ve closed the covers.
Great story! A must read for people who like modern fairy tales. It will keep you thinking is this her imagination or did Tara really get abducted by the fey.
SOME KIND OF FAIRY TALE blends an adult fairy tale, a fantasy of another world, and the reality of some type of neurosis. It is an unexpected fantastic story, diverse from the unusual fantasy literature. Based on old English folk tales, we cross at twilight into this unusual fairy kingdom. But at the heart of this fairy tale is the heartbreaking family crisis, where these family members’ lives are permanently altered by the disappearance of their loved one. How do we explain someone going missing for 20 years and returning without aging? Was it real, some form of psychosis, or was it just some kind of fairy tale?
This book was very different for me. I wasn't expecting the story to go how it did at all but I greatly enjoyed it!
I wanted to like this story, and for a little while I did, but it didn’t last. The story was slow, I kept wanting something to happen. I kept trying to grasp what was going on for most of the story. There were almost no happy parts; I don’t really enjoy books with no happy parts. Some Kind Of Fairy Tale has lots of graphically described sex scenes, especially when Tara talks about Fairy. They added pretty much nothing to the story. I would not recommend this story. Even if you like Fairy Tales or books about Fairies, this just wasn’t all that good. I would not have wasted my time reading this book had I known what would happen in it and how it would end. I received this book as an ARC. I do not get paid to review books; I do so in order to assist you in recognizing books that you might enjoy. Please read more of my reviews on my blog: sarahereads(dot)wordpress(dot)com
Not worth your time.