Some Kind of Fairy Tale

132344081-195x300If you must analyze unlikely effects for a realistic cause, and cannot allow yourself to escape into adult fantasy, Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale may offer you an antidote. This story of a young girl who returns on Christmas Day, after being missing for twenty years, can be read as a miraculous recovery from abduction or a fantastic tale of fairies and magic – depending on the reader.

Tara, who has been missing for twenty years, suddenly knocks on her parents’ door on Christmas day, explaining her absence and her youthful looks on her time-warped excursion to another dimension. While she appears no more than eighteen years old – the age of her teeth confirmed by dental examinations – her parents, brother, and teenage lover have all matured into their thirties. As Tara relates her tale to a psychiatrist hired by her brother, Joyce cleverly inserts descriptions of other-worldly experiences and Tara’s new-found skills to counter the doctor’s clinical analysis and explanations for the sexual references. Each chapter also begins with a reference to the credibility of fairies or a quote promoting the value of fantasy…

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.” Albert Einstein

Is Tara mentally unstable or has she had an experience in another dimension? Joyce cleverly inserts credible foils for both – the truth may depend on what others believed happened to her as well as what she believes herself. A subplot about a missing cat provides the clue to Joyce’s well disguised theme – how people change over the years, and not always for the best.

Knowing Joyce has won four British Fantasy Awards is a clue to reading the story. I had the feeling the author was subtly smirking through the fabrications, but the distraction did not keep me from reading to discover Tara’s final outcome.

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

Whew!  I read The Silent Land in under three hours, and enjoyed every minute of the suspenseful ride.  Clues to the ending started seeping in toward the end, but, by then, I was committed to finding out if what I guessed, was really what had happened.  Think of Graham Joyce’s The Silent Land as a great episode of the old TV thriller “The Twilight Zone” or “Lost.”   Joyce is a winner of the O. Henry Award – a clue to expect a surprise ending.

Zoe and Jake Bennett are in the French Alps for a ski holiday, and have the pristine slopes all to themselves on a perfect crisp morning.  As they make their way down the hill, an avalanche buries them in the snow.  Amazingly, they dig themselves out and walk down to their hotel to find it abandoned.  As the story continues, time seems to have stopped – with the meat and vegetables in the restaurant kitchen not decaying, candles never burning down, no new logs needed to keep the fire going.  Their attempts to ride or walk away from the resort are fruitless; no matter what direction they take, they always return to the same place.

Jake assumes they died in the avalanche and are now trapped in a pleasant limbo.  For a while, they enjoy the skiing on slopes they have all to themselves and drink the best wines from the restaurant, as they try to understand what has happened.  Eventually, strangers intrude – men in masks, a great black horse, a favorite dog…and clues that will lead you to an obvious conclusion that has been used before in novels.

At the heart of the story is Jake and Zoe’s marriage, and Zoe’s secret – that she is pregnant.  Joyce effectively keeps the attention focused on his characters.  It’s their relationship that drives the action, with clever banter and the quick, knowing connections of a married couple who know each other well, but are still discovering more.  As their world becomes fragmented,  their memories hold them together.

Combining mystery, romance, and just the fun of solving a puzzle, The Silent Land is an appealing fast ride down a slippery slope – and much better than watching TV.