Imagine Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, and Morgan Le Fey folded into one story and you'll have some idea of Alice Thomas Ellis's quirky novel, Fairy Tale. Set in the wooded hills and remote valleys of Wales, Ellis's modern-day romance follows the fortunes of young Eloise and her paramour, Simon, as they leave promising careers in London behind and adopt, instead, a ru...
Imagine Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, and Morgan Le Fey folded into one story and you'll have some idea of Alice Thomas Ellis's quirky novel, Fairy Tale. Set in the wooded hills and remote valleys of Wales, Ellis's modern-day romance follows the fortunes of young Eloise and her paramour, Simon, as they leave promising careers in London behind and adopt, instead, a rural life. Simon, who had a future in advertising, becomes a woodworker, while Eloise makes her living sewing chic clothing out of old lace. Despite their idyllic surroundings, Eloise is beginning to feel bored by the quiet life--so much so that she wishes for a baby to give her life purpose. Be careful what you wish for, Eloise--the magic begins when four mysterious men appear in Eloise's garden just as she pricks her finger with a needle, dripping a drop of blood onto her white lace. Before you can say "Magic Mirror on the Wall," all kinds of fey events begin to happen: Eloise disappears on long walks in the woods, one time emerging bone dry from a stroll in a rainstorm, another time returning home with a mysterious green-eyed, silver-haired baby.
Readers will understand that the characters in this novel are not what they seem far sooner than Eloise and Simon do; nevertheless, half the fun in this moonstruck novel is Ellis's juxtaposition of her oblivious human characters with her all-too-aware--and slightly scary--fairy ones. Light, slightly satirical, impeccably written, this is one Fairy Tale meant for adults.
From Publishers Weekly
Strange goings-on in the Welsh countryside lie at the center of Booker Prize-nominee Alice Thomas Ellis's Fairy Tale, a "supernatural comedy of manners" first published in 1996 in the U.K. Young Eloise's rural ennui is broken by intrusions from the spirit world, including the appearance of four mysterious men in black, a changeling child and the ability to walk in a rainstorm without getting wet. Unbeknownst to her and her boyfriend, Simon, they are the intruders in a land ruled by the Kings of the Heights. A pleasantly diverting take on an old genre, this is perhaps too self-consciously quirky to grab a large U.S. audience.
Two city dwellers in their late teens renounce parties, clubs, dancing, and late hours for a quiet cottage in remote Wales. Eloise, whose father provides financing for the venture, hand-sews nightclothes and undergarments from tenderly laundered old lace. Simon gives up a promising path in advertising for woodworking and odd jobs and resigns himself to Eloise's vegetarian regimen. Eloise yearns increasingly for a baby, but Simon is disinclined. He summons her mother, Clare, who sends a friend, Miriam, instead. By the time Miriam arrives, Eloise's already odd behavior has become more pronounced, and she wanders the surrounding hills alone, despite the fact that a known sex offender is lurking in the area. Eventually she returns from one of her walks with a not-quite-normal baby. Charming in moments, Ellis' sly, eccentric comedy of manners, with its sometimes downright slow pacing, may delight one reader while working like Sominex on another.
From Library Journal
This odd little tale by the author of "The Summerhouse Trilogy" is set in the Welsh countryside and is peopled by an eccentric cast of characters, including a shepherd, a gamekeeper, and four roving men with vaguely religious purpose. At the center are Eloise and Simon, a young couple who have fled city life. Eloise, an accomplished seamstress, is content to spend her days sewing nightclothes for trendy shops, tending her cat, cooking for Simon, and traipsing about her garden with bare feet and flowers in her hair. All that is missing from her life is a baby. Simon, who does odd jobs and woodwork, is less anxious to start a family. To distract Eloise, Simon enlists her mother, Clare, and her mother's friend, Miriam, to come for a visit. The women, both confirmed Londoners, depressed over being aging singles and rather fond of drink, find life in pastoral Wales very strange indeed. Things get stranger still after Eloise arrives home with a baby of unknown origin and with mysterious powers. Though well told, this tale will mainly appeal to Ellis fans and readers with a fondness for Welsh myth. Not essential.?Barbara Love, Kingston P.L., Ont.
From Kirkus Reviews
Britisher Ellis (Unexplained Laughter, 1987; etc., etc.) offers a sharply amusing present-day retake of, say, A Midsummer Night's Dream--in which people are used by fairies for fairy- reproduction and then are caused to forget all about it. Eloise has always been an independent-minded girl, but her mother Clare is even less pleased than usual when Eloise leaves London for a little red cottage isolated in Wales and sets up housekeeping as a seamstress while boyfriend Simon labors as a woodworker. Things get only worse--to Clare's way of thinking- -when Eloise starts hinting about wanting a baby. And so, with longtime best friend Miriam, Clare goes on a rescue mission, tearing herself away from the cafes and shops of London and the many pleasurable woes the great city offers her as an aging divorce--and goes out to the deep country, where ``nothing ever happened.'' Life together in the red cottage proves rather crowded, especially when half-vacant Eloise's moodiness only intensifies--and when very strange things happen, such as Eloise's walking in a downpour and staying dry. A gamekeeper with unnerving tales, four strange men who return again and again, a shepherd who seems not quite normal--all these not-humans will prove to have had a part in bringing about the sudden birth of Eloise's green-eyed ``baby,'' and they'll have even more to do- -and how--with the fate of this small but potent creature. As her story works toward its appropriately unshocking end, Ellis deepens the theme by remarking on humans' defilement of nature and on an obliviou earth that ``cared nothing for humanity.'' And her perfectly toned social satire unfailingly holds its own, as in the fairy gamekeeper's thoughts: ``Humans were useful for breeding, when you could catch one, and every now and then . . . he ate one, but otherwise he avoided them on the whole . . . . '' Bright, thoughtful fiction that clips along, having both its say and its fun.
Alice Thomas Ellis (also writes as Anna Margaret Haycraft), is a novelist and columnist. She was born in Liverpool, England in 1932. She attended Bangor Grammar School and the Liverpool School of Art. Ellis wrote a weekly column for the Spectator from 1985 to 1989 and for the Catholic Herald from 1990 to 1996. She co-wrote two books on juvenile delinquency with psychiatrist Tom Pitt-Atkins. Ellis also wrote A Welsh Childhood, a book recounting the history of Wales and featuring the photographs of Patrick Sutherland. Ellis has written several novels beginning with The Sin Eater in 1977. The novel won the Welsh Arts Council Award. Other novels include Unexplained Laughter which won the Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year in 1985 and The Inn at the End of the World which was the winner of the Writer's Guild Award for Best Fiction in 1991. Another novel, The 27th Kingdom, received a Booker Prize Nomination in 1982. She was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature from 1999 until her death in 2005, due to lung cancer.