Monday 19 October 2020

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Snow White's stepmother wanted to get rid of the beautiful stepdaughter who was challenging her title of 'most beautiful' - by any means necessary. Was Snow White poisoned? What happens to the poisoned, and the poisoner?

Jennifer Donnelly turns her feminist eye to this most delicious of fairy tales and shows Snow White as she's never been seen before.

Sophie is Snow White, with hair black as coal and lips red as apples. You all know the story, but Donnelly has put a fantastic feminist twist on this retelling, focussing on the importance of kindness and the strength needed in a male-dominated world.

You know that saying: history is written by the winners? Well in this case, it has been written by the men. The wicked queen wasn’t all that wicked, she had to be extra strong to keep the throne in a world where men didn’t like women in charge; and she wasn’t vain, asking the mirror who was the fairest of them all, but rather asking how to keep herself in power; Snow White herself was kind but that didn’t make her passive or weak, it was how she persevered and cared for her kingdom.

I really enjoyed this; as a fan of the Brothers Grimm tales and of all fairy tale retellings, I greatly appreciated the new spin and the little hints to the original, like the three attempts of murder that the stepmother tried: the laces, the hair comb and finally the poisoned apple. While it almost felt slow-paced, Sophie traversed most of her kingdom and met a lot of people, some friendly and some foes, on her quest to topple the queen and get her heart back from the King of Crows. Speaking of whom, the personification of fear and pain was fascinating and very clever, especially mixed with the metaphor of cutting out Sophie’s heart – which would not only kill her but also remove her kindness and goodness. It was only the quick thinking of the “seven brothers” that saved Sophie’s soul and allowed her some extra time to make a plan and discover her own strength. 

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

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