The Sisters of the Winter Wood

The Sisters of the Winter Wood

Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life - even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear,...

DownloadRead Online
Title:The Sisters of the Winter Wood
Author:Rena Rossner
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Sisters of the Winter Wood Reviews

  • Julie

    My official review! Do NOT miss this book if you enjoy languorously paced, character-driven dark fairy tales and fantasies like "The Bear and the Nightingale" or "Uprooted."

    "This dark fairy tale about sisterly love and Jewish strength and courage, set against the backdrop of a deep and deadly winter forest, will haunt me for a long time. A powerful, emotional debut."

  • Melanie

    This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It was also able to evoke such a visceral reading experience from me. I never wanted to put this book down! And I knew that this was going to be heavy on the Russian folklore, but I had no idea that this was also a reimagining of

    . And I swear, I don’t r

    This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It was also able to evoke such a visceral reading experience from me. I never wanted to put this book down! And I knew that this was going to be heavy on the Russian folklore, but I had no idea that this was also a reimagining of

    . And I swear, I don’t remember consuming any fruit while reading this, yet I am still completely under this book’s spell. And I for sure also recommend this to people who also love

    and

    !

    Not everyone is going to love this book. In fact, I bet a lot of people will DNF this one. But if you love this story, you’re going to be completely captivated from the first page and you’re never going to want this story to be over. Friends, I fell head over heels in love with this story.

    follows two Jewish sisters who live on the outskirts of a town, in a forest, with their mother and father. Their family feels rather isolated in Dubossary, (on the border of Moldova and Ukraine), but they make do the best that they can, always relying on each other. That is until one day the mother and father get called away and leave their precious daughters behind. Yet, before leaving, the mother tells them a secret that she has been keeping from them their entire lives. And this secret changes everything.

    - 17, devout, smart, stern, keeps to herself not letting anyone in. Starts to have feelings for a boy that has grown up right in their town, who is also Jewish. He also is kind, and caring, and protective, and comes from a good family.

    - 15, questioning, beautiful, graceful, and easily gains friends. Starts to have feelings for a boy that is new to town, that has come selling fruit with some other questionable young boys that are very prejudiced towards Jewish people.

    And this switches points of view, back and forth, between two sisters. One sister’s point of view is standard format, yet the other sister’s point of view is told in verse! Again, very reminiscent of the way

    is told. But surprisingly enough, I ended up loving Laya’s verse chapters more than the standard story telling.

    I don’t want to give away anything about this book, because I truly think it is best to go into blind. So, I’m holding back that very big secret that Laya and Liba’s mother has hidden from them, but I will say that because of the secret, Liba says some very questionable things about her body in comparison to her sister’s body. I’ll mention it again in my trigger warnings at the very end of this review, but I will say that the only negative thing about this book, in my eyes, is Liba’s thoughts on her body. And I do understand that she is seventeen years old, and that even in 2018 society puts so many horrible body standards on us at every age and everywhere we look. But, it still always made me a little sad when I’d read about her not loving her body as much as her thinner sister’s. It’s truly the only real complaint I have about this novel, and please use caution because I think some of the things that Liba says and thinks about her “thicker” body and her “hunger” can be really potentially triggering.

    But there are two different romances, between each sister and two boys they meet in town, where the sisters start to learn about their bodies and the feelings and reactions that their bodies are making them feel. This is for sure a book about two young girls both discovering their sexuality for the first time not feeling like they are forced to repress what they feel, since their family (and their religion, standards, and judgment) has left them alone.

    And while the romances and these girls discovering things about themselves are for sure at the forefront of this story, a murder mystery is also going on in the background. And this book very much showcases what hate-mongering is and how scare-tactics can make people do unspeakable things. This book is heavily influenced by the pogroms of the early 1900s where many Jewish families and communities were murdered. And the author pulls this from her family’s real experiences.

    And Rena Rossner’s writing completely moved me to feel every single emotion. This story is just crafted so expertly, in my opinion. And this author’s prose is on a tier above most. I feel like she captured this setting and atmosphere in a way that just feels like pure magic. And she seamlessly wove in all these homages that build such a perfect story. Also, this book has the best acknowledgments I’ve read in all of 2018. I thought I was going to be able to make it through the book without crying, and then I read the author’s heartfelt words talking about her family, her influences, and why she wrote this story. Friends, I don’t even have words. I also really appreciated the glossary with Hebrew words and pronunciations!

    Ultimately though, this is a book about the bond of sisterhood and found family and doing whatever you can to support and help the people you love. Yet, this is also a story about realizing that you are worthy of love and deserving of all the unconditional love in the world.

    Overall, this is one of my favorite reads of 2018. Yet, I will say that this book does have a lot of things in my personal reading wheelhouse that I enjoy. It’s about learning that you deserve unconditional love and finding yourself among people who cannot accept you for who you are. It’s a book that had a forest setting, that is a reimagining of one of my favorite stories of all-time. It’s gorgeously written and tackles some really heartbreaking moments in our world’s history. I just loved this one, friends. And I hope if you pick it up, that you will love it as well.

    |

    |

    |

    |

    |

    for a lot of antisemitism (but always in a negative light and challenged), captivity, drugging, blood depiction, physical abuse, talk of past rape, talk of slavery, murder, torture, death, misogynistic comments and ideals, grey area consent (doing sexual things while one person is magically enthralled), some questionable body image/shaming comments and thoughts, and questionable thoughts about food and eating that could potentially be triggering.

    Buddy read with

    at

    &

    at

    ! ❤

  • destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    If there are a few things I love in my fantasy stories, they are: 1) good, diverse representation, 2) fairytale vibes and/or retellings, 3) historical settings, and 4) animals and/or shape-shifters. This book checks all those boxes,

    either other chapter is poetry (and if you didn’t know, I adore stories in verse), so basically this was one of the most “on brand for me” books I’ve ever seen in my life and I was absolutely ecstatic to read it.

    If there are a few things I love in my fantasy stories, they are: 1) good, diverse representation, 2) fairytale vibes and/or retellings, 3) historical settings, and 4) animals and/or shape-shifters. This book checks all those boxes,

    either other chapter is poetry (and if you didn’t know, I adore stories in verse), so basically this was one of the most “on brand for me” books I’ve ever seen in my life and I was absolutely ecstatic to read it.

    Like all the best fairytales,

    is written at the most fascinating crossroads of whimsy and despair, and it works perfectly. The mood of the entire story is captivating and beautiful, but beneath, there lies something sinister, plots of revenge and betrayal, and the tragedy of a society that devalues Jews and women. It’s a fast read, and that’s a good thing, because I could hardly put it down—I had to know what would happen next, whether Liba and Laya would be safe or not, and could either of the sisters fight fate and family to determine their own futures?

    The writing and plot are pleasant, but this felt like a mostly character-driven story to me, and I loved the way those characters were brought to life. A substantial portion of the story revolves around their family’s beliefs and the ways they are treated—on a lesser note, the disdain cast their way by many other Jews due to their mother having converted to Judaism, and on a much larger scale, the torment that Jewish people have endured at the hands of many.

    As I’m not Jewish, I obviously can’t speak from that perspective, but I can say that I thought their beliefs were depicted beautifully, and I loved learning more about Liba and her family’s customs. It broke my heart to see the struggles they faced, and during one scene near the end, I couldn’t stop crying because it had suddenly become so

    and sad.

    On the other hand, the representation I can speak on is the

    which I adored. Liba is plus-sized, and her self-doubt worried me at first—would this be another tragic tale of an overweight girl feeling worthless because of her size?—but I quickly realized that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, Rossner paints a realistic and familiar image of a young woman who frets over her size and feels inadequate for it, while her loved ones—including the man who pursues her—find her beautiful and wondrous.

    On a less tragic note, there are a few different romantic subplots here—the main being between Liba and Dovid, a local boy who she finds herself falling for despite her own self-doubt and reservations. While the development of their relationship definitely struggled with insta-love, Dovid was so genuinely pure and precious and lovable that I couldn’t help but root for them, anyways. The other romantic subplots in the story technically also are insta-love, but they have explanations behind them that I won’t spoil you for—I’ll just say that it’s only a minor flaw in the story.

    Beyond the fantasy aspect, the romance, and the lovely representation,

    is a story of family love, the mountains we will climb to ensure our loved ones’ safety, and the power of a people who are willing to fight for their beliefs and their survival, regardless of what the world throws at them. It is an absolutely stunning tale in at atmospheric setting that transported me right into the Kodari forest, and by the end, I didn’t want to leave. Rena Rossner is a natural, and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this gorgeous story and see for yourself.

    for anti-Semitism, minor body horror, abduction, body shaming, murder.

  • James Lafayette  Tivendale

    Every family has a secret... and every secret tells a story.

    I received an advanced reader copy of The Sisters of the Winter Wood in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Rena Rossner and Orbit Books for this opportunity.

    The titular sisters and their parents live close to the village of Dubossary and reside in a house that is close to the woods. They are a Jewish family in a tale that is like a melting pot of reality, Jewish mythology and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The sisters L

    Every family has a secret... and every secret tells a story.

    I received an advanced reader copy of The Sisters of the Winter Wood in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Rena Rossner and Orbit Books for this opportunity.

    The titular sisters and their parents live close to the village of Dubossary and reside in a house that is close to the woods. They are a Jewish family in a tale that is like a melting pot of reality, Jewish mythology and a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The sisters Laya and Liba are very different in personalities. This can even be seen in the way that their chapters are presented. Liba is the older, more serious, religious and over-analytical sister and her point of view chapters are written in a way you would expect from a modern fantasy novel. Detailed and explaining to the best of her knowledge what is happening in the world. Laya, her younger sister is daring, free, floaty and ambitious. Her sections are presented in a poetic stanza-like quality. Her chapters feel like a breeze in the air compared to the deeper and more thought-provoking chapters of her sibling. She occasionally repeats herself in a dreamlike state.

    "I've had too much wine.

    Too much fruit.

    And no answers.

    But I just want

    to kiss him again

    and again

    and again."

    Towards the beginning of the novel, their parents inform them of what is up until that point secret mind-blowing family knowledge and then leave them to fend for themselves in the woods. Mami tells Liba to protect her younger sister from the swans.

    This is a magical, enchanting, haunting and mysterious debut featuring anti-semitism, enchantments, peculiar love stories, bizarre fruits and unsolvable murders in a small quaint settlement.

    The elements of magic and mystery were amazing. Rossner's imagination is heightened and colourful yet it is written in a way where people who can become cats, bears, swans and even goblins fits the world expertly and never seems forced or silly. I believe the differences between the two point of view perspectives with Liba's matter of fact views and Laya's cloudy dreamlike take on reality allow readers to open their imagination. Some of the scenes reminded me of a dark Disney fairy tale.

    The beginning starts at a steady pace. It features short sharp chapters ranging from 1 to 14 pages so it's always addictive and easy to read one more scene. The narrative features Hebrew, Yiddish and Ukranian words and phrases. It does feature a glossary of what these words mean at the back of the book but as a guy who watches foreign films (especially Chinese) without subtitles so I can follow the emotions instead of the meaning I just let it flow and took it in and therefore was familiar with certain phrases at the end. This is an alien, poetic and enchanted world so not knowing the meanings of some of the peculiar words seemed to fit the mise en scene.

    The only real negative I have about this narrative is that in certain chapters around the middle it seemed to go from Liba "I love this boy, he kissed me and it was great." Laya "I kissed this boy, I want to kiss him again." This seemed to go on for about 4-5 chapters and I'm not really into lovey-dovey romance in my fantasy. I can see why the author had these sections and they do add to the overall progression arcs for both the sisters but I just wish that they had other actions in between. The love seemed a bit too in my face! At this point, I did have to force myself to carry on but I did because I'd heard so many great things about this novel.

    This is a complex and unpredictable tale with a spectacular finale and I'm glad I carried on reading it. I read The Sisters of the Winter Wood in 3 days and that is including the fact I struggled with a handful of romance chapters. It analysed a Hansel and Gretal vibe from the beginning and some events here aren't that far away from that classic tale. Nobody and nothing is safe in the woods and the two girls are always running off into this enchanted forest. Whether to rescue each other or for their own needs. This really was the sort of novel I needed to read right now. It's excellent, perhaps more suited for younger and female readers however there are dark moments. One scene to do with blood-sucking and poisoning in particular. The trees are alive, the swans are trying to kidnap someone, the bears might be murderers, the new boys in town are charming women before they disappear. There is so much going on and it is excellent. The Sisters of the Winter Wood will be a huge hit, perhaps as popular as The Bear and the Nightingale. I can't recommend it enough. It doesn't get a higher rating because of the romance force-fed action in the middle but that's my personal taste and I still highly recommend it.

  • Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Look at this copy!!!! OMG!!!!! And yellow stained edges!

    Everyone in this book got on my nerves! But, I still liked it. Funny that!

    Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

  • Will Byrnes

    Once upon a time two sisters lived in a house in the woods. Liba (almost 18) and Laya (15) are the

    Once upon a time two sisters lived in a house in the woods. Liba (almost 18) and Laya (15) are the yin and yang of this story. Liba is zaftig, with dark hair, devoted to her father, her religion and culture. Laya is fair, the pretty one, an uninterested student of religion or homemaking skills. She is flighty, head in the clouds, a dreamer. She yearns to leave, see the world. It’s got to be better than

    place. They both wonder about what lies ahead for them.

    They live in the wooded outskirts of a small town in Bessarabia. When their parents are called away on the death of their father’s father, they are left alone for a spell. It is while their parents are gone that a band of strange merchants arrives at the town.

    - image from the author’s site

    Rena Bunder Rossner is a literary agent living in Israel. Also a poet, she was always interested in poetry and refashioning

    poems into novels. For her first novel she chose Christina Rosetti’s 1862 fantastical poem,

    , often described as a fairy tale for adults. In the poem, (links to the text and readings abound in EXTRA STUFF) a band of goblins (The strange men in the novel are the Hovlins) emerges from the woods to tempt the locals with unnaturally ripe, luscious, juicy fruits. If the word “forbidden” pops to mind, that would be about right. The fruit and their consumption are described in very sensual, sexual terms. You could leave it as a purely sexual presentation, but there also seems a layer of a more chemically-based addiction, creating an unquenchable, and destructive need. The Hovlins appear as attractive men as well, particularly seductive to the young, inexperienced, and adventurous. They chant about their produce, encouraging custom with calls to “come buy, come buy.” Sans cash, Laya pays with a lock of hair. Bad idea.

    illustration by Arthur Rakham

    The sisters in this tale have taken on magical properties, as Rossner folds into this retelling of Rosetti’s yarn some magic from the folk tales of the region. These include stories of bear-men and swan-people from Russian and Ukrainian folk tales, and a nod to the classic Greek myth of

    . When Liba sees her father transform into a bear and her mother change into a swan, it explains some odd feelings and bodily manifestations she has been having. Liba is having some unusual experiences herself. What if the fairy tales were true?

    - copied from a painting by Michelangelo

    Rossner’s reimagining uses her family history to inform the story. It is not in just any generic small town. On the border of Moldova and Ukraine, Dubossary is a town from which her great-uncle emigrated to America, driven by the incessant pogroms that afflicted Jews in the area. Other family members emigrated from the nearby town of Kupel. Both towns figure prominently in this telling. Other historical elements are also incorporated. For example, the Jews of the historical Dubossary really did join together to defend themselves against pogroms, as the literary version captures. Nearby shtetls were not so fortunate.

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s illustration for the original publication

    The sisters face existential threats, and must rely on each other and members of their close-knit community, and members of their respective extended families, to band together to try to drive off the danger. When some townspeople go missing, people are eager for explanations, and someone to blame. The danger comes not only from the Hovlins seductions, but from low-information locals, eager to believe anti-Semitic blood-libels (fake news, spread by the Hovlins, for their own purposes) and transform those beliefs into carnage.

    Rossner peppers the novel with a wonderful collection of Yiddish, Hebrew, and some Ukrainian words and expressions. I knew many of these, but was very grateful for the glossary at the back of the book. They add to the feel of a defined community of people, sharing a special language in addition to sharing a geographical location.

    Like the original, this is a tale of sisterly love, devotion, and sacrifice. In addition, Rossner has added the love for community, family, religion, and tradition, reflecting her real-world values. As with the original there is abundant, and steamy, if only suggestive, sexuality.

    The transformation in

    may have been the industrial transformation of England, (the change represented by the goblins being the availability, made possible by industrialization, of things previously considered exotic) but here it is a change from at least some level of mutual tolerance to the arrival of extermination-level anti-semitism.

    The story is told in alternating chapters, this sister then that. Laya chapters are presented in a verse form, reflecting her more poetic nature, while Liba’s chapters are more traditional prose. One result is that the page count for the book is a bit deceptive. My ARE comes in at 429 pps. But it reads much faster than that because there is so much less text on the pages in Laya’s chaps.

    - by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

    Gripes – not a lot really. I thought the ending could have been a lot more adventurous. Sometimes there were maybe too many foreign words being used. It interrupted the flow for me, driving me back and forth to the translate device or glossary. Dad was way too understanding when his wife tells him the truth of a secret she had been keeping for many years.

    Whether you prefer your bears, black, brown, polar, grizzly, gummi, Smoky, Yogi, Teddy, or Bryant, whether you prefer your swans black, mute, tundra, whooper, trumpeter, Emma, Charlie or Lynn, you will find plenty to like in Rena Rossner’s

    , a beautifully painted portrait of a place and time both real and imaginary. Who doesn’t like a grown-up fairy tale?

    Review posted – September 28, 2018

    Publication date – September 24, 2018

    =============================

    Links to the author’s

    ,

    and

    pages

    - author

    -----A nice

    by author Rena Rossner

    ----- Professional Book Nerds - Ep. #259

    - Audio 28:49 - retelling old tales in a new way

    -----Interview – Tracy Scott Townsend -

    - July 16, 2018 – A nice interview, with a focus on writing – nice

    -----

    - from The Poetry Foundation

    -----

    , with an intro on Rossetti – from Poetry Please – The actual reading begins at about 3:20 of the audio. While Henderson’s reading is wonderful, it is also very fast-paced. You might want to have the text at hand to better allow you to follow along.

    -----A

    is also quite good – 20:55 – a bit more manageable a pace

    -----This

    is done at an even more measured pace. You might be able to follow along without the text at hand – 26:34

    -----

    -----Rossner says that

    offered particular inspiration

    -----

    -----The myth of

    -----

    - London Philharmonic

    -----

    - from the movie

    -----

    – full original Broadway cast album

    -----

    - The Troggs

  • karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!

    man, i was

    looking forward to this - it seemed, from the description, to be exactly my kind of book; one blending fairytale sensibilities with realworld atrocities à la

    , with girls shapeshifting into bears and swans, and coming as it did in an envelope full of bear n’ swan confetti and GOLDEN FEATHERS, Y’ALL!!!

    and, because those bears are too good at camouflaging themselves:

    feel free to read my palm!

    knowing it was an unusual blend of rossetti’s goblin market

    NOW AVAILABLE!!

    man, i was

    looking forward to this - it seemed, from the description, to be exactly my kind of book; one blending fairytale sensibilities with realworld atrocities à la

    , with girls shapeshifting into bears and swans, and coming as it did in an envelope full of bear n’ swan confetti and GOLDEN FEATHERS, Y’ALL!!!

    and, because those bears are too good at camouflaging themselves:

    feel free to read my palm!

    knowing it was an unusual blend of rossetti’s goblin market, jewish folklore and history (anti-jewish pogroms in moldavia and ukraine), i was looking forward to something dark and surprising. and it

    surprising, just not in a way that pleased me, although it clearly pleased many other readers, so feel free to disregard any and all of my own personal gripes.

    it is

    dark historical fantasy, but its front-and-center taxon is YA fantasy romance. even though it lists and is priced as adult fiction, it does not seem to offer as much to an adult reader as it would to a teen: the characters are teen girls, very sheltered, whose parents are called away unexpectedly, and they are forced to take responsibility for themselves for the first time - keeping themselves fed and out of trouble, but also with their strict, religious parents out of town, they’re free to let their repressed sexuality off the chain a bit, and even though people in their village are going missing and the news of the pogroms targeting jews reaches them, that is largely in the background, and it really is mostly a story of duty and desire as it relates to boys - liba likes a boy who is tender and chaste and devout, but she knows he is not who her parents would choose for her husband. meanwhile, laya is seduced by a bad boy and made giddy by the temptations of fruit and freedom, and they are both discovering their shapeshifting abilities (i.e. their changing bodies); liba = bear, laya = swan, which are manifesting alongside all of these confusing new feelings.

    so, thematically, it’s very YA: a coming-of-age, emotional/sexual awakening story, where the parents are conveniently absented so the sisters can begin to make their own decisions and take on adult responsibilities and their characters can be tested for the first time as they become independent young women. but the balance is heavily slanted towards the individual rather than the historical - there is so much time spent on the inner battle of permitting/suppressing the body’s urges, and liba being ashamed of her curves, her appetite (for food), her sensuality, her wild inner self, and so little time spent on, you know, the ethnic massacres occurring offstage.

    did i want graphic descriptions of torture and murder? no, but it’s such a superficial treatment of historical brutality - i thought it would be used as more than a backdrop for romance. if this is supposed to be adult fiction, the expectation is that it will explore themes more meaty than ‘first kisses’ and ‘establishing an identity apart from the family.’

    i personally find the romance parts of books tedious, so a book with this much “will they or won’t they?/should we or shouldn’t we?” is wasted on me. and it’s even worse when it occurs in laya’s chapters because her POV is written entirely in verse:

    there is never any reason given for the decision to write her segments in verse, and the whole “everything is poetry!” mentality so pervasive these days is bad enough when it’s all that kissyface stuff, but the “i have found the return key!” attitude is even more baffling when it’s fancying up life's most banal moments:

    so that’s where i’m at: a crank who’s too old to be reading about teenagers in love, too widely-read to be impressed by metaphors already encountered elsewhere, too appreciative of the dark and gritty to have it be sidelined. unless you are me, sleepwalking, you are a different reader with different preferences - fans of

    would probably dig this.

    i will say that i liked the author’s note very much, in which rossner discusses her intentions and inspirations, both historical and literary. i wish more of that had found its way into the story.

  • Emma

    Oh, how I wish

    this were darker.

    The winter wood

    held little chill.

    Its thorns were so small

    and brittle.

    Two girls, one fair, one dark, live with their Tati and Mami in a house by the forest, a simple life of religion and toil. When a stranger appears at the door one night, telling of an extended family about whom they knew nothing, Liba and Laya’s lives are changed forever. Their parents are made suddenly mysterious by their secret pasts, with tales of transformations and violent transgressions b

    Oh, how I wish

    this were darker.

    The winter wood

    held little chill.

    Its thorns were so small

    and brittle.

    Two girls, one fair, one dark, live with their Tati and Mami in a house by the forest, a simple life of religion and toil. When a stranger appears at the door one night, telling of an extended family about whom they knew nothing, Liba and Laya’s lives are changed forever. Their parents are made suddenly mysterious by their secret pasts, with tales of transformations and violent transgressions both incredible and horribly true. When the two girls are left alone, they must come to terms with what they have discovered, whilst even greater dangers hover at their doorstep.

    Family is at the heart of the book, especially the ways in which each member remains somewhat unknown to the others no matter how close. Most of all though, this is a story of two sisters, their coming of age right at the centre of the plot. Their sheltered, separate lives are magnified by both their Jewishness and by their as yet unfulfilled transformative powers. These issues form intertwining strands of their search for identity independent from their parents and each other, fulfilled through increasing self awareness and emotional/romantic discoveries. Laya’s verse sections were an interesting and effective way to showcase the oppositional nature of there two as well as the divergence between their experiences. Even though it followed no poetic framework I could discern, the simple adjustment to placement on the page immediately altered the way the words and even Laya's character were perceived. In a book about changes of form, it made an overtly visual point about the validity of different ways of seeing and feeling which forms one of the overarching themes of the book. Certainly, it made an excellent counterpoint to Liba’s traditional, prescribed language and ideas which were all set out in the dominant fashion, with Laya’s more flighty, freer text giving so much more space to both the page and the possibility of being different. Saying that, it would have made a greater impact if the author had aimed for a more genuine poetic form.

    Again and again, it is through language that dissimilarity is emphasised and enhanced. As people disappear and things start to go wrong, there verbal tearing down of Jews is how the persecution begins. The author’s liberal use of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ukrainian words and phrases is suggestive of a shared language of cultural understanding, one to which Liba very much subscribes at the beginning of the book, but in reality it highlights how easily language can be used to bind or destroy. The alienation felt by some readers due to this use of vocabulary only highlights how significant and separating a factor it is. Things said or withheld form an important part of the relationship between the sisters; as they grow into individuals, the greater distance between them only enhances the uncertainty about what can be shared without negative consequences. This is further played out within the larger village community in which, though accepting on the surface, there is a definite separation between the Jewish community and others. It is made clear that difference of any sort will always be punished in some form or another, the ongoing snubbing of the girls’ mother being the prime example. Set against a historical background in which propaganda is utilised to whip up hatred and violence, such divisions have the potential for disater. Yet all of this complexity is undermined by the neat ending, even if, once again, words are the essential means by which change is enacted.

    Overall, It needed be a much darker tale. The potential was there. The mythical and fairy tales on which this was based all have deeply sexual, violent themes and the discriminatory language and behaviour which leads to murderous violence against Jews within the narrative has clear historical origins. In fact, the author has a section at the end of the book that details the ways in which persecution and pogroms in Dubossary and Kupel affected her family, leading to desperate escape and even death. But instead, this is a story of youthful romance, a happy-ever-after tale of first kisses and forever love. It’s not what I was expecting. Instead of Grimm’s, this is Disney sanitised, with only the barest hints of the more monstrous reality. It’s a YA tale wrapped up in a beautiful bow, but the marketing to adult readers is going to leave many disappointed. It’s precisely the kind of retelling that we want to read, but it’s just too young to hold anything more than the most superficial meaning.

    ARC via publisher

  • Roman Clodia

    If you enjoy modern whimsical re-tellings of folklore and fairy tales with a smattering of history (here Jewish pogroms in pre-Revolutionary Russia/Ukraine) then this might be for you. I liked the intentions but found this too YA and unsophisticated for my tastes.

    The two sisters, especially, are schematic: Liba is bear-like, dark, aligned with her father, and tells her story in prose; Laya is swan-like, white-blonde, aligned with her mother, and narrates in 'poetry' (really, though, this is just

    If you enjoy modern whimsical re-tellings of folklore and fairy tales with a smattering of history (here Jewish pogroms in pre-Revolutionary Russia/Ukraine) then this might be for you. I liked the intentions but found this too YA and unsophisticated for my tastes.

    The two sisters, especially, are schematic: Liba is bear-like, dark, aligned with her father, and tells her story in prose; Laya is swan-like, white-blonde, aligned with her mother, and narrates in 'poetry' (really, though, this is just prose broken up with just a few words per line: there's no rhythm, stanzas, poetic form or anything else to make it 'poetry'.)

    The myths and folkloric elements are a mix of classical Greek (Leda and the swan), Hebrew, Russian/Ukrainian, and jumbled up with Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market' though in lots of ways this is far less dark and ambiguous than the originals.The end, especially, where love is the cure for everything is too pat and unsatisfying.

    Worth a read but don't expect anything challenging or sophisticated.

    Proof via Amazon Vine

Best Free Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2018 Best Free Books - All rights reserved.