A Grown-Up Fairy Tale: Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger ravengirl

Published: May 7th 2013 by Harry N. Abrams

Source: local library

Synopsis (Goodreads): Once there was a Postman who fell in love with a Raven.

So begins the tale of a postman who encounters a fledgling raven while on the edge of his route and decides to bring her home. The unlikely couple falls in love and conceives a child — an extraordinary raven girl trapped in a human body. The raven girl feels imprisoned by her arms and legs and covets wings and the ability to fly. Betwixt and between, she reluctantly grows into a young woman, until one day she meets an unorthodox doctor who is willing to change her.

One of the world’s most beloved storytellers has crafted a dark fairy tale full of wonderment and longing. Complete with Audrey Niffenegger’s bewitching etchings and paintings, Raven Girl explores the bounds of transformation and possibility.

My thoughts: C. S. Lewis once said, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

For me, I guess that time has come. I was excited to read Audrey Niffenegger’s new illustrated fairy tale, and then I found out it was being adapted to a ballet performed by the London Royal Ballet, and I was desperate to see it. Let’s hope a US company puts it on some day…

This delightfully creepy fairy tale is the story of a Postman who falls in love with a Raven. This unlikely and unorthodox union results in a child, born from an egg, who looks human but cannot speak and yearns to fly. When she goes off to college, she meets a plastic surgeon who gives a lecture in her biology class about his research on Chimera, and how he has successfully altered humans to have the physical characteristics of animals. Raven Girl is desperate for him to give her wings, and though he is reluctant, he agrees.

Though there is misunderstanding and death, there is also a happy ending. This tale brings a modern tale of science to a form as old as time. The language is haunting and magical, and is enhanced by etchings done by the author to illustrate the story.

I really enjoyed this short short. It’s one I’d pick up and read again. I only wish more fairy tales were written for adults!

Recommended read-alikes:

The Bloody Chamber and Other Tales by Angela Carter

Second opinions:

Kristi at Book Hugger: “Raven Girl feels like a modern fable in many ways. Its structure is dreamlike in places, and the mixture of the human’s relationship with a creature and the lack of named characters certainly adds to this. The story is inventive, and Niffenegger astounds in the way in which she is always able to create something so utterly unique.”

The In-Between Place: “There were only a few things that I disliked about this story: the ending was quite abrupt, some details were glossed over, and the book was quite short…This story took me on a dark adventure that I really enjoyed.”

Glen Weldon for NPR: “Now, with Raven Girl, Niffenegger sets out to create a new fairy tale bearing the form’s alchemical mix of light with dark, wish fulfillment with foreboding, bright fantasy with flat-out creepiness.”


6 thoughts on “A Grown-Up Fairy Tale: Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger

  1. This was so interesting to learn that Audrey Niffenegger has written a fairy tale for adults! (I believe she’s the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife? And this book sounds like it’s so much different from that.) I love that Lewis quote! While I’m not the biggest fan of his works, he does have so many wonderful quotes. I love fairy tales and their retellings, even some that are darker like works of Angela Carter, so I am definitely intrigued to learn more about this story now!

    1. Niffenegger did write The Time Traveler’s Wife and another novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, but also does graphic fairy tales — her first was Three Incestuous Sisters. If you like darker fairy tales, check them out!

  2. Cool! I really enjoy re-tellings of fairy tales and I LOVED The Bloody Chamber. I also loved The Time Traveller’s Wife, so I think this is going to need to go on my TBR list!

      1. I read Her Fearful Symmetry a few years ago. I didn’t connect with it as well as The Time Traveller’s Wife, but if you like supernatural/ghost stories, it might just be a new fave of yours!

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