This is without a doubt the best William Morris book I've read so far. It was the last Romance he wrote before he died and it is perfect. The biggest difference between this and the other romances I've read is the main character is a woman. While I have quite a few issues with the Bechdel test - this book passes it on page 3! And is only women characters for the first 100 pages!) It is such a wonderful story, an evil witch (whose not actually all that evil but powerful and beautiful and strange) kidnaps a young baby and brings it to live with her in the woods. Everything is fairy tale like but there's also an adult rather than a childlike feeling to the book. The main character isn't perfect and her inpatience at one points results in a tragic death of one of her friends. She's head strong and wise but at the same time sometimes she's quite scared and needs others to help her and othertimes she's capable of taking care of herself. It's a great mix. There are also so many wonderful little asides, that make it obviously written by William Morris. Like when the main character decides she needs to leave her friends behind as she fears a love triangle is developing she moves to the city and is able to support herself working and making incredibly gorgeous embroidery. I loved that she was able to be totally self sufficent, support herself through work and make beautiful things. After having been attacked for her virtue she decided to dress as a man, which didn't fool everyone, but made for one or two interesting bits. The other nice thing was that the women were just as passionate and inerested in physical love as the men. The relationships weren't all clean and fairy tale with one person meeting falling in love and getting married, but felt much more realistic. There was also a wonderful quote about prisons, and how they were places that rich people put poor people. The only problem I had was telling the difference between her three women friends. Either they needed a little more characterisation or I needed to be paying more attention, which I definitely will do next time I read this.
This is definitely the 2nd best book I've read this year (very close to Alan Moore's Voice of fire). It was a wonderful quest, written beautifuly with interesting characters. I read it througout Floyd's illness and I don't think any other book could have distracted me so well. I bought a copy of the first edition on Abebooks and that was definitely the right way to read it. Though now I really want to see pictures from the kelmscott edition!
This book was so wonderful and perfect. I'm really happy I read it....Continua