Friday, September 14, 2007

Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls

I have just finished Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls and I have to admit I loved this collection of short stories by Australian author Danielle Wood. I loved it so much that I read it in one day, being home with a cold and not able to move off the couch.

The stories are a collection of modern day 'fairy tales', stories that ostensibly are written to inform young women about how to avoid the dangers of the world. The stories are loosely connected by the character of Rosie Little (what a great story-book name!) and follow Rosie's progression from losing her virginity, through first love, relationships and working life. In some stories Rosie is only referred to tangentially and in others she does not appear at all. The stories do, however, all centre around women and some of the problems they might face in the course of their lives.

The fairy tale references are subtle enough to not interfere with the flow of the stories, but interesting enough to add another layer of meaning. Picnic baskets, red shoes, plants that try their best to grow through the ceiling, a girl who turns into a 'living doll'; all occur at times throughout the book. Wolves appear in the guise of violent men, one of whom takes the form of an abusive lover of Rosie's.

I loved how Wood doesn't flinch from dealing with the tough issues- abortion, domestic and sexual violence, and the objectification of women are among some of the more confronting subjects dealt with. These are, of course, important issues for women and for society as a whole, and Wood's fictional tales do offer some thoughtful warnings to young women without being preachy or overly simplistic.

One of the great delights of the book is the humour and frankness of it. Rosie often pauses from telling her story to enlighten the reader on such subjects as penis size or the existence of a shoe goddess who helps women find perfect shoes. Rosie herself is a great character, one who makes mistakes but gets up again, laces up her cherry red Doc Martens and boldly plunges into the world once more. As Rosie says, these are not tales for good girls who stick to the well-trodden path on their way to grandma's house. These are for girls who 'have boots as stout as their hearts' and who are prepared to 'step out into the wilds in search of what they desire'.

I saw much of my own life in these stories, and I know I would have loved it even more if I'd read it ten years ago. I hope this book finds wide readership amongst young women because I think we could all do worse than to find our own inner Rosie Little.


Dorothy W. said...

This sounds interesting -- an updating of fairy tales and didactic literature both. And then to make the stories fun -- it sounds like a great combination.

jess said...

It is great- on re-reading my post I'm not sure I do the book justice in a way. I would love to hear what anyone else thinks of it.