Review: Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce


Title: Some Kind of Fairy Tale

Author: Graham Joyce

Published: Knopf Doubleday July 2012

Synopsis: It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phonecall from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery. He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she’s back, tired, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim. But her stories don’t quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter’s parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara’s one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it’s as if she’s off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family…

Status: Read from July 08 to 09, 2012 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by the premise of Some Kind of Fairy Tale which seemed similar to that of Don’t Breathe a Word, which I really enjoyed last year. When Tara disappeared it was assumed she had been abducted and murdered in the woods surrounding the village but twenty years later, on Christmas Day, a disheveled Tara, looking barely any older than when she left, knocks on the door of her childhood home. When pressed she claims that she was lured away by a man on a white horse, just six months ago and has been trapped in an otherworldly place, eager to return but forced to wait until the hinge of the day. Tara’s parents accept her story afraid of driving her away again, but her brother, Peter, is infuriated by her whimsical explanation. Richie, Tara’s childhood sweetheart who was briefly a suspect in her disappearance, is thrilled by her return, no matter where she has been. The psychiatrist she is forced to consult with believes Tara’s story is simply an elaborate confabulation to obscure a horrible trauma. As the line between fantasy and fact begins to blur, who will you believe?

Some Kind of Fairy Tale started quite strongly, and I’m not entirely sure when my attention began to drift but I think it was before I reached the half way point. I was determined to keep reading though, certain that the story would pull me back but unfortunately that never really happened. The element of ambiguity that the entire novel relies on failed to provide the tension I hoped. The overlap between Tara’s ‘truth’ and the more rational perspectives of her family and the psychiatrist, simply never blurred enough to provide the element of doubt. I needed to question Tara’s story, without the space to do so the attempts of Peter and the psychiatrist to prove otherwise seemed crude.

Peter was probably the strongest character, his hurt and confusion at his sisters return and his desire for a rational explanation are realistic. I was disappointed we learn almost nothing of how Tara feels to be back amongst the world and reunited with her family. I never figured out the identity of the mysterious narrator, and that it was at least partially why I felt removed from the story.

Perhaps if I hadn’t previously read a similar story to this I would have enjoyed Some Kind of Fairy Tale more. The structure is there, as is the concept and the writing is fine it just didn’t find it gripping. Though for me Some Kind of Fairy Tale was a fairly ordinary read, others have found it impressive, you will have to make up your own mind.

Available To Purchase

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Alternate Cover

13 thoughts on “Review: Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

  1. What a shame that you found it lacking. The synopsis sounded so very intriguing, but I am not fond of mysterious narrators and I would want to learn how Tara feels now that she has returned. Great review!


  2. I hadn’t heard of this one before coming across your review and got really excited after reading the blurb. Then a little sad after reading your review – it is really too bad that this book didn’t live up to your expectations as it sounds so promising. I’m gonig to add it to my TBR list and give it a try for myself. Thanks for such a thoughtful review!


    1. It has had some strong reviews Bonnie so I think if you are still interested you should go ahead and read it


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