Fairytales for Wilde Girls – Allyse Near
Random House, 2013
When Isola Wilde finds the dead girl in a birdcage in the wood behind her house, it is only another secret she has to keep. No one else sees her six brothers, from Alejandro the Victorian ghost to Ruslana, the avenging Fury; no one knows about the creatures of Vivien’s Wood. No one else talks to Isola’s mother any more, isolated as she is in a shrinking universe of depression. But this particular secret is the most dangerous of all. By night the dead girl sings at her window; by day, the woods begin to close their boundaries. Isola is being haunted.
I don’t know quite what to make of this book. It is Melbourne-based Near’s first novel and a gorgeously lyrical, gruesomely dark concoction, laced with literary references and Gothic glamour. It’s really more horror than fantasy, and horror is not a genre I tend to touch, but I could not put this down. On the other hand – it is incredibly dark in parts, and I’m not entirely comfortable with the sheen of glamour laid over that darkness. Also, a plot should never be a metaphor, and this book veers very close to that with a dissatisfyingly dream-like ending. It was absolutely worth the read, though, and I will be very interested in seeing what Near writes next. Fairytales for Wilde Girls recently won this year’s Aurealis awards for Best Horror Novel and Best Young Adult Novel.