Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Book Review: Poison

Poison by Sarah Pinborough
Image © Gollancz

Most books I’ve happened upon have been noticed with an eye-catching cover and intriguing blurb. Sarah Pinborough was the first author who inadvertently led me to her work via twitter. For the life of me, I cannot remember when or how. It’s as if Ms Pinborough crept up behind me and shouted Boo!!!

Entertaining tweets led me to her blog, with a writing style smoother than chocolate melting in the mouth; I was hooked. And so this is my review of the recently released novel ‘Poison’, the first of a thematic, yet standalone trilogy. 


Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, is so entrenched in the memory that it’s almost become the definitive version of this fairytale. Sarah Pinborough has stripped away the layered years of convention and built an adult story from the foundation of the Brothers Grimm tale(s).

There are no clich├ęs here. The Queen’s wickedness is fleshed out from a character so rich in depth as to feel sympathy on occasion. The dwarfs daily life and characteristics read like real working people in this fantasyland; altruistic in their relationship with Snow White.

Along came a handsome Prince: I’ve always found something creepy in the notion of pinning over an unknown, inanimate princess for her beauty alone. It’s an idealised image of a woman in a glass case, re-animated into a person compliant and as pure as her skin. The twist near the end is disturbing as this situation unfolds.

Snow White herself is indeed beautiful, loyal and can drink and be merry with the best of them. This is a contemporary Snow White; fiercely independent and comfortable with her own sexuality. There’s a very sensual scene in this book that not only feels naturalistic but also serves to further character behaviour and motive.

Wonderfully written and interwoven with recognisable characters, it’s a fresh take on this fairytale with strong female characters battling against their environment. At 200 pages, no word has been wasted in this wickedly sinister tale.

I’d recommend the HB if possible as the publisher, Gollancz, have provided much care, with beautiful illustrations by Les Edwards, and a shimmering cover that an image cannot convey. Confidently written: Poison shows an author right at the top of their profession. Now where's that chocolate?!