Review & Giveaway: The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Title: The Wild Girl

Author: Kate Forsyth

Published: Vintage: Random House March 2013

Download an ESampler

Status: Read from March 15 to 17, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:
The Wild Girl is a stunning tale of passion, love and war where history and imagination intertwine to create a wonderfully rich portrait of a woman whose contribution to the legend of the Grimm Brothers is finally acknowledged.

Dortchen Wild lives in the small kingdom of  Hessen-Cassel in Germany in the early 1800’s, as Napoleon Bonaparte marches across Europe. One of five daughters of an apothecary,  her only relief from her father’s tyranny comes from the rare occasions she can escape his attention and her friendship with her next door neighbour,  Lotte Grimm. As the war intensifies, Lotte’s older brothers Jakob and Williem return home. With a single glance, twelve year old Dortchen falls in the love with the scholarly Williem but he barely notices her and she can only worship him from afar. As war rages and Cassel is plunged into economic ruin, the Grimm brothers hope to reverse their fortunes by publishing a book of collected fairytales.  It’s not until Dortchen shyly offers to contribute that Williem realises Dortchen has grown up, but her father forbids any courtship between the desperately poor neighbour boy and his daughter. While the lovers endure years of enforced separation due to abuse, war and poverty Dortchen never stops hoping for her own happily ever after.

Kate Forsyth uses historical record as the anchor for a story that she then develops with informed imagination. The Napoleonic War and it’s social effects grounds the tale in time and place while her fictional narrative winds in and out of what is known about the Grimm brothers, the origins of their fairytale collection and Dortchen. I don’t doubt that Forsyth’s research, using primary sources such Williem’s diaries amongst others, is impeccable but I most admire how she creates a plausible, seamless narrative melding fact with fiction. The author’s intuitive grasp of behaviour and motive ensures her characters, their environment and their lives feel authentic.

In the tradition of the original Grimm’s fairytales, Dortchen’s childhood is beset by darkness. Her mother was a weak woman addicted to Laudanum and subservient to her husband. Dortchen’s father, pious and strict during her childhood, devolved into a drunken, abusive tyrant in her adolescence, illustrated in several harrowing scenes. The war and resulting economic deprivations is hard on the family and though three of the sisters are eventually able to escape, Dortchen is forced to remain at home and care for her ailing parents. It is saddening to see Dortchen withdraw into herself in self defense, her spirit eroded by her fading hopes for escape from her father. The spark is only revived when she steals a moment or two with Williem. Her relationship with him is fraught with angst, drama and passion, their love is challenged repeatedly and a happy ending is never guaranteed.

The fairytale’s appear in the narrative not just as stories passed between the characters but also with some relationships to the plot. Dortchen often hopes that Williem will recognise her pain in the tales that she tells, though his scholarly focus seems to make him somewhat oblivious to the subtleties. They also reflect the political and social instability of times with tales of greedy kings and an abandoned, unfed children, despite their origin being from other times and places. The fairytales themselves are both versions of familiar stories like Cinderella and Snow White as well as less well known tales like that of a singing bone that identifies a murderer.

Really I could go on, The Wild Girl is remarkable. A tale of triumph over adversity, an epic historical romance, a fascinating glimpse into the history of storytelling – it is all those things and more. One of my favourite reads for the year, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Earlier today I posted a Q&A with Kate Forsyth HERE. Visit to learn more about the author, the book and  download an ESampler.

The Wild Girl is available

@Random House Au I @Boomerang Books I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko


Random House is offering my Australian readers the opportunity to win

1 print edition of The Wild Girl

To enter


Entries close March 31st. Winner is drawn via

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: AWW Feature: Q&A with Kate Forsyth, author of The Wild Girl | book'd out
  2. Helene Young
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 18:23:07

    I’m saving this one to read on the way up the coast in April. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful reviews for The Wild Girl.



  3. janereads
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 19:23:59

    This sounds like a fantastic read. I will definitely add it to my reading list.



  4. Rachel @ Skull and Crosstales
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 21:45:20

    Thanks for hosting the five away! This is the second glowing review I’ve read for this one, definitely sounds like one worth winning!



  5. Ashley @ The Bibliophile's Corner
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 02:48:28

    Wow! This one sounds amazing! This sounds like something that I will definitely read.

    Great review!



  6. jeniwren
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 08:33:12

    This sounds intriguing and excited as the author is visiting my local independent bookshop next month.



  7. Mystica
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 13:47:12

    Sounds good. Count me in please.



  8. Mary Preston
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 13:52:20

    THE WILD GIRL is going to be a fantastic read.



  9. brendat59
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 16:14:25

    Great review Shelleyrae! I’m looking forward to this one…thanks for the giveaway:)



  10. Kate Loveday
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 10:08:57

    This sounds absolutely my sort of book! thanks for the review Shelleyrae.



  11. Teddyree
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 11:51:33

    I was lucky enough to win a copy of this during the Australia Day Giveaway Hop, seriously excited about reading it, hopefully over Easter. I skimmed your review but got the general gist that you loved it …



  12. Jennifer L. Schillig
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 05:39:22

    But when’s it going to be published in the U.S., or for a U.S. Kindle, already?!

    That’s TWO books by this author that I’m itching to get my hands on–Bitter Greens and this.



  13. Trackback: March 2013 Roundup: Classics and Literary | Australian Women Writers Challenge
  14. Book Blather
    Apr 23, 2013 @ 03:16:06

    This sounds really good. 🙂



  15. Trackback: March 2013 Roundup: Historical Fiction | Australian Women Writers Challenge
  16. judith tobin
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 07:38:27

    In your last paragraph you have called the book The Wild Child.Assume you meant The Wild Girl.
    Have problems with writing sounding like old fairytale writing using phrases like “There’s no need to suck up “



  17. Trackback: March 2013 Roundup: Classics and Literary | New Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog
  18. Trackback: AWW Feature: Kate Forsyth, Fairytale Retellings and The Beast’s Garden | book'd out
  19. Trackback: Book Review – THE WILD GIRL by Kate Forsyth
  20. Trackback: March 2013 Roundup: Historical Fiction | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog
  21. Trackback: Review: Searching for Charlotte by Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell | book'd out

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