Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: The Onion Girl

Title: The Onion Girl
Author: Charles De Lint
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Gollanz 2002
508 p.


Newford: where magic lights dark streets, where myth walks in modern shapes, where humans and older beings must work to keep the whole world turning.

At the centre of the entwined lives of all the Newford tales stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in in Newford's shadows. Now, at last, we have Jilly's own story. Behind the painter's fey charm there's a dark secret, and a past she's laboured to forget. The past is coming is coming to claim her now, threatening all she loves.

'I'm the onion girl' Jilly Coppercorn says ' Pull back the layers of my life and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl'

My thoughts: Mr De Lint writes very well and weaves a wonderful story which moves back and forth between the real world and an alternate reality, the Dreamlands or Otherworld.
Fantasy novels are defined as having elements that do not exist or have never existed but anyone who has practised meditative journeying and guided visualisation will not find these Dreamlands overly 'fantastical'. I particularly liked the Native American influence.......the shapeshifting crows, coyotes and wolves.

In the real world it is a story of healing and self discovery. The physical injuries which confine Jilly to a hospital bed give her the opportunity to 'peel back the onion layers' and confront the past. A cruel and abusive childhood from which she has been running all her life and her guilt at leaving her little sister behind.

The chapters are narrated by different characters which adds interest as well as contrasting perspectives and one of the strongest voices is Jilly's sister Gaylene who really livens things up with her don't mess with me attitude. You can't help but like her.

I loved it and look forward to reading more of Mr De Lint's Newford stories. I also think it would be an excellent choice to recommend to anyone who is dubious about reading Fantasy because of the combination of real and unreal.

Rating *****