Once Upon a Time


“Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time IV criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

I couldn’t possibly  say no. It feels like I’ve been waiting for this challenge, pondering books for ever.

And here are the books:

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

“After twenty years of self-effacement as a maiden aunt, she decides to break free and moves to a small Bedfordshire village. Here, happy and unfettered, she enjoys her new existence nagged only by the sense of a secret she has yet to discover. That secret – and her vocation – is witchcraft, and with her cat and a pact with the Devil, Lolly Willowes is finally free.”

Witchcraft may suggest another, autumnal challenge, but this definitely feels like a magical springtime book.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

“Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where it seems that everyone has a story to tell about the Waverley women. The house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, the rumours of dangerous loves and tragic passions. Every Waverley woman is somehow touched by magic.”

I have heard so much good about this book, and I think that this is its time.

I Coriander by Sally Gardner

“Her idyllic childhood ends when her mother dies and her father goes away, leaving Coriander with her stepmother, a widow who is in cahoots with a fundamentalist Puritan preacher. She is shut away in a chest and left to die, but emerges into the fairy world from which her mother came, and where time has no meaning. When she returns, charged with a task that will transform her life.”

This has been waiting for me in the library for a while. Another book that has found its time.

The Mermaid’s Child by Jo Baker

“Growing up motherless in an isolated community, Malin Reed has always been made to feel different from everybody else. The fact that, according to Malin’s father, the absent mother was actually a mermaid only makes matters worse. When Malin’s father dies, leaving behind nothing but his stories, Malin’s choice at last becomes clear: stay, and never feel at home, or leave and go in search of mermaids and the fantastical inheritance that, up to now, has always seemed completely out of reach.”

I live by the sea, so there had to be a mermaid somewhere.

Iron & Gold by Hilda Vaughan

“Lured from her underwater home, to become a farmer’s wife in the Brecon Beacons, the fairy bride discovers that both her difference and her acquired familiarity breed marital breakdown and tragedy.”

I’ve been promising myself this book for this challenge for ages.

Five wonderful books. What could be better?

24 responses

    • I’ve learned that I have to be organised for these things – otherwise I waste too much good reading time dithering.

    • I hadn’t noticed that,but you’re right – with the possible exception of Garden Spells. But hopefully I shall be reading about women learning and advancing. We shall see!

    • I’ve had my eye on I Coriander for a while now but I’ve been saving it for this challenge. And the library has a copy of Sally Gardner’s The Red Necklace which looks promising too.

  1. I’m not doing this challenge, but it’s fun seeing other people’s choices and I’m glad you’ve got in a VMC – I loved Lolly Willowes, it’s the only STW I’ve read.

    • It’s a challenge in itself sliding VMCs into reading challenges! I’ve only read STW’s short stories before, and I’m only one chapter in but I have a very good feeling about Lolly Willowes.

    • Hello, and that you for de-lurking, It’s good to know who’s passing by. I hope you enjoy Lolly Willowes.

  2. Lolly Willowes is a tremendous book, one of my all-time favourites (I’ve been meaning to re-read and post a review about it for ages!) I haven’t read your other four, though I saw a review of I Coriander that sounded very promising – the others look tempting too. I look forward to reading your comments on them all.

    • I’ve heard a lot of praise for Lolly Willowes, and now I’m wondering why it took me so long to pick up my copy. Sylvia Townsend Warner seems to have the art of making the everyday seem fascinating and the extraordinary semm entirely natural, which I love.

      And, if I can just make some room on my library ticket, I Coriander will be coming home very soon.

  3. I didn’t get on very well with Lolly Willowes and will be interested in your thoughts; I suspect that it is a novel that requires rereading and better concentration on my part.

    I love trying to find VMCs and Persephones that fit challenges; I didn’t manage to this time (well, at least not on my pool of reads).

  4. Oh how fun! I am not sure whether or not I will have the time to take this challenge, but would love to read these in due time. Right now I am waiting for the next Disney Tinkerbell book, a sort of fantasy book, to come out April 13th!

  5. Pingback: Sylvia Townsend Warner, Lolly Willowes (1926) « Smithereens

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