Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger --- review

Summary (courtesy of Goodreads):  Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven.

So begins the tale of a postman who encounters a fledgling raven while on the edge of his route and decides to bring her home. The unlikely couple falls in love and conceives a child — an extraordinary raven girl trapped in a human body. The raven girl feels imprisoned by her arms and legs and covets wings and the ability to fly. Betwixt and between, she reluctantly grows into a young woman, until one day she meets an unorthodox doctor who is willing to change her.

One of the world’s most beloved storytellers has crafted a dark fairy tale full of wonderment and longing. Complete with Audrey Niffenegger’s bewitching etchings and paintings, Raven Girl explores the bounds of transformation and possibility.

And here's what I thought:    Reading this dark fairy tale reminded me of just what I enjoy about many of Audrey Niffenegger's books: the feeling of being a bit off balance.  Like many of her other stories, this book has a lot in it that deals with possibilities, and transformation, and being true to one's heart.  The first part of the book, where the Postman meets the Raven is interesting, partly because the Postman makes an assumption that the Raven is in need of assistance, when, in fact, she's perfectly fine.  By taking her from her nest, he takes her away from her home and family --- but both of them adapt to each other, and eventually, fall in love.   

When their daughter hatches, she looks human, but she can only speak in the Raven tongue.  As the book tells, "The Raven Girl had a happy and perplexing childhood.  She played odd games that involved hunting bugs and earthworms; she climbed trees and jumped out of them, hoping to fly, but only crashing to the ground."   It's clear that although she's somewhat comfortable in her own skin, she doesn't feel that it's a completely true body --- because her raven-ness makes her want to fly.   It's an interesting way to show how someone can look "normal" on the outside, and still not fit in with everyone around them.

Eventually, there is an opportunity that comes to the Raven Girl ..... and I won't say any more about that.   Suffice to say, the end of the story is pretty interesting, and I found it satisfying.   However, it should be noted that Niffenegger, true to form, doesn't make things easy; transformation always comes with sacrifices, and sometimes, people get hurt.

This is an odd sort of a book; it's more of an illustrated book rather than a graphic novel, and yet, I felt the art was instrumental in helping tell the story.     The combination of the art and the story make for an interesting, and thoughtful book.   I included a bit of the art here --- I love that first image, with the raven and the Postman's shadow !

And a note: the Royal Ballet (UK) will be performing choreography of this book - this link has more information on that.   I think this sounds like a really cool performance, and fascinating project!


Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I really do want to read this! I loved The Night Bookmobile, and this one sounds good. Great review!

Jen said...

Hi Kate -- thanks! I also liked the Night Bookmobile! :)

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