Djinn in the Nightengale’s Eye

A couple years ago, when I read Possession (also by A. S. Byatt), my friend Julie recommended this collection of fairy stories, saying that I would LOVE it. She’s almost right: I liked it, but it fell short of LOVE. (Sorry, Julie.)

I really liked the first three stories: “The Glass Coffin”, which was a Snow White-esque story with a tailor instead of a prince waking up the imprisoned princess; “Gode’s Story,” a somewhat complex story about a man who wanted a woman, cursed her to wait for him, dumped her when she became haunted, married another and then became haunted when the first woman killed herself; and, my favorite,”The Story of the Eldest Princess,” where she goes off on a quest, but because she’s read so many stories, ends up opting out of the whole quest thing and instead hooks up with an old healer woman.

The other two stories — “Dragon’s Breath” and the title one — were okay, but not nearly as enjoyable. My complaints with Djinn, especially, are similar to the ones I had about Possession: too much extra stuff, but not enough plot. When it finally got around to the plot, I really enjoyed it: what would you do if you had access to a personal djinn? (And, what is it that a woman most desires? They never answer that one.)

It really was a collection of stories about stories. Sometimes, it worked — like in “The Eldest Princess”; sometimes, not so much, like in “Dragon’s Breath”. But when it worked, it worked really well, and I was captivated by the writing — Byatt is a really descriptive writer; I just wish she’d be a tighter writer. Perhaps that’s why the shorter stories appealed to me more: the writing was tighter, the stories more linear and less circular. They worked better for me.

Maybe sometimes I do “get” short stories. Funny.

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5 thoughts on “Djinn in the Nightengale’s Eye

  1. Simran says:

    Short stories and fairy tales reminf of fantasy worlds and Roald Dahl for some reason. Although I’d highly recommend the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis as a great read. The author’s imagination and creativity never cease to amaze me. Although most might think that they are for children,I think most adults would also enjoy reading them.In fact, Disney is coming up with the latest Narnia movie-Prince Caspian, this May 16th!! It promises to be awesome by the looks of the trailer. I think its very well-timed also, especially for the kids who’d be on summer break. So dont miss it! The very hot Ben Barnes is playing Prince Caspian. I’m soo awaiting this release!!

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  2. I wasn’t aware of this one. I have Little Black Book of Short Stories (also by Byatt) on my stacks. I’m going to give it a go for the Short Story Challenge, and if I like it I might try this one, too.

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  3. Sorry, Julie. I really wanted to love it. And I did, for the first three stories. But then Byatt just got too… long… for me. I guess I actually like her in shorter doses.Simran — yes, I’ve read Narnia. Many times. There isn’t a post about it on my blog because I actually haven’t read it in many years. Maybe I’ll get around to it. (And, yes, we’re all looking forward to the movie around here.)Andi — I’m curious to hear about her other short stories. I think I like Byatt in short (very short) doses. She does have some wonderfully descriptive language. It’s just that she tends to wander around the plot rather than sticking to it, which tends to bother me.

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  4. I picked up one of her short story collections second hand a few weeks ago and am looking forward to reading it. This sounds like a lovely collection and something I hope to enjoy. I have only recently started reading short stories and have enjoyed the majority of what I have read so far…

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