Sunday, 20 October 2013

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger Review


Best known for her novel The Time Traveler’s Wife, a book I’ve never, nor ever will, read, I’m familiar with Audrey Niffenegger’s “illustrated novels”, all of which I’ve read. The latest, Raven Girl, is a modern fairy tale conceived for a dance production, and is also the least interesting of the four illustrated novels. 

A postman and a giant raven produce a human girl who wishes she was a raven. When she grows up and enters university, she meets a visiting biology professor who reluctantly agrees to graft wings onto her and does. Raven Girl flies - the end. It’s Hans Christian Anderson meets Dr Moreau! 

This is a fairy tale so I’m not going to critique the setup, but I will say that it’s not a very imaginative fairy tale. It basically follows the archetypical metamorphosis trope found in nearly every fairy tale - frogs turning into princes, princesses turning into swans, and so on and so forth. In this book, a girl turns into a raven. Yeah - and? 

Art-wise, Niffenegger paints and draws in the same style as she did in her last couple of books but with much less visual flair - The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress both had much more eye-catching and memorable art than the few drab illustrations in Raven Girl. The book is really well produced though - glossy, high quality pages are used and the book feels and looks well-made.

I can’t pan the book entirely because it’s designed for a dance production and there’s only so much you can put into a story that would work within a dance show, so it needs to be necessarily simplistic. That said, reading it isn’t much fun and it’s story is all too forgettable. Maybe as a dance it’s great - I’ll probably never see it - but as an “illustrated novel”? Nope.

Raven Girl

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