Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

As you know, I love fairytales. Normally this is just about read them and about them, but now, I found a novel based Dortchen Wild! If you haven’t heard of her, Dortchen Wild was Wilhelm Grimm’s wife and one of the key contributors of fairytales.

While there is, sadly, not much material on Dortchen Grimm, Kate Forsyth has used what she could find to write the love story of Dortchen and Wilhelm, starting from their meeting when Dortchen is twelve to when they get married when Dortchen is thirty one. Woven into their love story are the fairytales that she tells Wilhelm and his brother Jakob.

And don’t think that because I said “fairytales” that this is a happy story. It’s not. If you’ve read the first edition of the Grimm’s fairy tales, you’ll know that their stories were very dark and not for kids. [MILD SPOILER ALERT] Likewise, The Wild Girl is dark because Kate Forsyth theorises that some of the changes between the first and second edition of the Grimm tales were made to protect someone they knew who suffered abuse (in this case Dortchen)

Apart from seeing how fairytales came to be (or could come to be), I thought the historical time period in this book was absolutely frightening. The Wild and Grimm families lived through Napoleon’s reign, which means that they lived through some pretty harsh times that the book does not shy away from exploring. There’s also quite a bit of information about herbs as Dortchen’s father runs a medicine shop.

The characters in this book were really well-written. I felt the pain of Dortchen, felt annoyance at her sister Gretchen, smiled at the exuberance of her best friend Lotte Grimm, and basically went through the whole emotion range while reading this. It really is a very intense read.

Fans of the history of fairytales will appreciate the afterword and short but informative section on the sources of fairytales.

If you’re in the mood for a meticulously researched and well-written novel about one of the key women behind the Grimm tales, you have to pick this up. It’s a fantastic and intense story.

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