Mar 11, 2013

Book Review – The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

the-wild-girlThe Wild Girl is Kate Forsyth’s latest foray into the milieu of fairy tales.  I have been eagerly awaiting its publication since finding out it was in the works in my interview with her last year  It features the same attention to detail that fans of Bitter Greens enjoyed, that feeling of immersion in the past, created by a confident rendering of the tumultuous years surrounding Napoleon’s rise and fall.

Where the two books differ, however, is that The Wild Girl is historical fiction, where Bitter Greens was a mix of historical fiction and the fantastique, skillfully weaving historical fiction with fairy tale.
Where they do share similarities (apart from Forsyth’s beautiful and subtle writing) is in the revealing of a woman obscured by history.  Forsyth brought to life the wonderful Charlotte-Rose de la Force in Bitter Greens and in The Wild Girl she gives us the life of Dortchen Wild. 

Dortchen who?
If you are not into history or perhaps even fairy tale scholarship then you probably didn’t know about Dortchen Wild, when even a mention of the Grimms these days will get you a blank look or a reference to the TV show, it’s perhaps not surprising.  Dortchen Wild was the girl next door to the Grimms, the source from which they gleaned about a quarter of their stories and later the wife of the brother Wilhelm.

The Wild Girl is Dortchen’s story, a story which parallels a number of fairy tales in both the misfortunes that beset her and her eventual triumph.  At 538 pages it is not a slight tome, but Forsyth’s skill as a storyteller makes the narrative a pleasure to read through, a joy of immersive reading.
I must give fair warning that what starts off as a nice dramatic historical, does take a darker turn, for some of the tale.  Some elements of the narrative will be confronting, despite the deftness and sensitivity Forsyth brings to bear on them.  Without spoiling it too much, let us say the tale All Kinds of Fur is one of those tales that parallels Dortchen’s life.

I emerged from this story feeling as though I had some sense of the woman and her times, that this could have been her life.

I hesitate to call The Wild Girl a romance, though of course we know from the beginning that Dortchen and Wilhelm get married and that outcome end stops the story. I’d call it a drama, if that would encourage male readers to pick it up.

Please do, pick it up that is. I think your reading life if not your wider existence will be enriched by the process.

This book was provided by the author at no cost to myself.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.

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