Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity

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Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity

Telford Sins.jpg
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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A distinctive visual style that may grab your eyes for the right or wrong reasons matches some modern variants on the fairy tale. Not for everyone, but this book has a fair bit that is strong about it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: December 2016
Publisher: The Lilliput Press Ltd
ISBN: 9781843516620

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Is there enough new to say about the seven deadly sins? We've seen them all shown to us, from school age and up to the movie Se7en, which we sincerely hope was NOT shown to anyone at school age. We can each recount them all, having been long familiar with them, even if we probably can't pin down when they were actually set in stone without help. Similarly, is there anything new in the world of fairy tale? We know the tropes - characters identified by their status or gender (the woman, the husband), a clear set of rules to obey, and a moral as strong as, if not stronger than, the formulae involved. Well, this volume demands we decide the answer to those questions as being positive ones, and if it's not always definitive in the writing here that there is something new, rest assured there will be something in the imagery that will definitely strike one as fresh...

It's easy to read these seven short stories in very little time - I guess they are around a thousand words each, and being arrayed across forty or fifty pages each, you don't get large chunks of script. I alluded to the fairy tale having something of the foreseeable, or obvious about it, and in a way that's what we get here. Take 'Envy', a story that definitely looks back to Andersen's The Red Shoes, as the husband stifles the wishes of his wife, to dance and otherwise. Take 'Pride', which demolishes as clear a case of hubris as you'd like in a way that would only seem more timeless if it obeyed the rule of three, and didn't rely on two critters.

But there is enough that is definitely at a remove from such classical things here. One female character damages her Louboutins, before suffering a lot worse. The victim of the 'Anger' feels modern. The 'Gluttony' warning is a case of Jack and Mrs Spratt matched with those weather figures, one coming out in times of sun and the other the rain-lover. 'Sloth' has the most blunt lesson that it's the easiest sin to shrug off from your life, being the one most easily outrun, and comes at us including computer games. So there is both enough awareness in the text here of the old, and enough variety and engagement with modern life to create new fairy tales. If only a couple didn't have such clunkingly abrupt endings, I think I would have been enamoured of the book a fair bit more.

But like I say, in a book of such few words, there is a very un-secret weapon involved, and here that is the artwork of France-based Louise Verity. Her time working in costumes seems to have paid off with a swathe of fabric samples that she often interweaves into things, although not everything here is such a collage. She employs a variety of other techniques, certainly pencil, and I assume silhouette cut-outs for the last piece. But I can't say I fell in love here, either. Certainly the book creates a dreamscape, with a distinctive and at times alarming feel, but I felt it at one remove from what the writing demanded too often. The last piece was a case in point - I know it's supposed to be disturbing, and with those pins (don't ask) here, there and everywhere it certainly is, but it's too sexless. 'Pride' begged for the feel of Mucha, and not some Beardsley-lite rake as the subject. But then again she can certainly convey the narrative of doll-like victims, and when the work does marry literal and visual imagery you do have something to look up to.

Ultimately, of course, despite my initial leading questions, the shelf marked 'adult fairy tale' has grown and grown since the 1970s. There definitely is a strength to both ladies' work here that shows this as a firm calling card, and while I did find imperfections, there is enough here and there to convince the right reader that these stories are paragons, and definitive encapsulations of each sin in turn. The paucity of text will be a concern to some, as will the errant wilfulness of the artistic style, but this will certainly stand out, either on said 'adult fairy tale' shelf, or indeed many another.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Book Collector by Alice Thompson should appeal to those seeking material from the cusp of fairy and reality.

Buy Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity at Amazon.com.

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