I picked this book up thinking it was a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on fairy tales. Perfect! That is just my cup of tea! But there's more to it than that. The Merry Spinster is a collection of stories representing classic children's literature, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Scottish folklore, the Book of Genesis, and more. That's a lot to take on!
The stories are definitely dark, subversive, gender fluid and feminist in the coolest way. I found the interchangeable use of the terms brother and sister, husband and wife, male and female to be pure genius and a welcome way of looking at the world. Some of the stories were adaptations from the author's beloved Children's Stories Made Horrific series on The Toast, a humor and feminist writing website co-founded by Ortberg.
I may have nightmares about the more sinister stories. "The Rabbit" variation on The Velveteen Rabbit was beyond chilling and the gaslighting of poor Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows was disturbing and mean. The title of that story is called, "Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad." Wow. So true. Mole, Rat, and the gang were terrible friends to Mr. Toad. And I do not understand why. The title character Beauty, or the Merry Spinster, was not allowed to read any of the books in the Beast's library. That was horrifying to me! Every reader has their own limit and that was mine.
This collection is exquisitely written, painstakingly crafted from the originals, and absolutely unique.
Don't miss the author's wickedly funny Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters.