What’s it all about?:
Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?
What did I think?:
What a strange little book this is! And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. Based on the classic Grimms fairytale of Rose Red and Snow White, the author weaves a sense of darkness and powerful magic into this re-telling that makes it both a disturbing and intriguing tale. The story begins with the two girls’ mother, Liga who when we meet her at thirteen years old is nothing more than a slave for her disgusting father, who also enjoys sexually abusing her on a regular basis. (I warned you about the darkness!) Then horror of horrors, Liga finds out she is carrying his child, but is determined to keep the baby, despite her father procuring some abortive potion from Muddy Annie, the witch of the village.
Zipping forward for a bit, Liga has gone through agonising sufferings but has two beautiful daughters, Branza and Urdda out of it who are her pride and joy. Unfortunately, the experiences that she has been through are so traumatic that she does not feel she can live in the world any longer. Along comes a strange creature – a “moon babby” who grants Liga her heart’s desire and shifts time and place to make a new world for her and her daughters where there is no fear and nothing can harm them. They grow up blissfully unaware of all the horrors of the world until they meet a dwarf and an incredibly human-like Bear who show them that there is another world to the one they exist in, and it’s a lot more sinister.
I remember really enjoying the fairy tale of Rose Red and Snow White when I was a little girl, and was interested to see how this “darker” re-telling would match up and compare. I wasn’t disappointed in general, I thought it was an ingenious take on the story, but I have to admit I was surprised it was classed as Young Adult. Just the first few lines made my eyes pop out a little. There is a lot of adult content in it, aside from the rape and incest stories. One article in the Daily Mail even likened it to “emotional pornography.” But perhaps we’re not giving our teenagers a fair chance? They are a lot more mature nowadays than previous generations and it is possible that being too protective over certain material may be harmful also? Perhaps this is also a subtle message that the author is trying to put across to the reader?
Putting that to one side however, I think Margo Lanagan does a good job overall with this novel, I enjoyed the magical element and the friendly (and er…OVER-friendly) animals, although I thought the ending was a bit of a let down for Liga and I would have liked to see her get a different path than what was chosen for her. But…. is Margo Lanagan telling us that’s life?
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):