In the past week, and it has only taken a week because ‘life’ will get in the way, I have been immersed in a fairytale and, as someone who has written their own fantastical tale, I could claim research into the children’s book market as my excuse for doing so.
But I won’t.
For you see, the book I’ve been reading is simply an incredibly imaginative, well-written and yes, a page-turner of a story, and whether it’s marketed at young adults or not, it’s worth a read. In my previous post I mentioned about writers writing what they want to write about and writing for themselves as opposed to the commercial book market and the author behind this tale has done just that. He has always loved fairytales – not the schmaltzy gooey stories which have come to the fore over the past few decades, but the traditional, the original fairytale – where good doesn’t necessarily always triumph and where evil is more than a shadow lurking in the corner.
The fairytales of old could send a chill down your spine, make you shiver and be thankful you weren’t part of them, whereas more recent tales are, in contrast, like a sunny walk in the park, where you know there really isn’t anything to be worried about. They lack the macabre, the sinister, the unbelievable.
For example, if anyone has ever read Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Water Babies’, which I finally got around to recently, then you’ll know what I mean. It certainly isn’t what I’d deem a fairytale as children would know them to be today and, antiquated language aside, it’s a plot which at times beggars belief… and a bit of re-reading, I have to admit. It’s convoluted and confusing but certainly doesn’t shy away from danger and The Hard Lessons of Life in the story – ‘But it was of no use, and the dog was hanged: and Tom couldn’t even have his carcase; for they had abolished the have-his-carcase act in that country…’
Fast-forward to today and to writing a little less meandering but just as engaging in the aforementioned book of good vs evil, it is very encouraging to see a fairytale top the New York Times bestseller list – a fairytale which has enraptured both adults and children alike. As I read on a publisher’s website this week, great writing is great writing, whatever the content – be it fairytale, women’s fiction, crime novel or whatever, if it’s good then it’s good, and anyone can and should want to read it.
There is an upward trend for adults reading young adult fiction (e.g. The Hunger Games; Harry Potter), which doesn’t mean they’re reading ‘beneath their age group’, no – it just means they’re reading great stories, rather magnificently written. Full stop.