07 July, 2013

Book Review: The Wild Girl

From Goodreads: Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.
Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.
It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as 'Hansel and Gretel', 'The Frog King' and 'Six Swans'. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen's father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.

 Thoughts: Dark, disturbing, harsh, haunting, emotional. All of these words are repeated often in reviews of The Wild Girl, and they are all correct. Kate Forsyth's historical book about Dortchen Wild and Wilhelm Grimm is spectacular. You will experience the full range of emotions as you read about their love, the barriers put up by Dortchen's father, all against the tumultuous backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars.
Forsyth does not protect her reader at all from the harsh realities of life, or the darker side of human nature. She pulls no punches, softens no blows, but leads the reader down dark paths, dangerous alleys into terrifying situations. At one stage she leaves you with little hope for her characters. At times the despair is almost suffocating, but you are pulled back as you want to know, need to know, if this can be resolved. For me, I was so connected to Dortchen, so concerned for her that I felt I had to read on, if only to see her out of the darkness. I felt that if I closed the book, I left her there, hanging, waiting for me to continue to lead her (hopefully) somewhere safer, quieter, lighter. 
I also now want to go and read all of Grimm's fairytales again.
I was so taken with this book I'm going to go out on a limb here and put it on par with Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. Yep, it's that good. Not often will I say a book is a must read - but this is a must read. In years to come when they put out those "50 books you must read" or "50 books to change your life" this will be on it. It will stand the test of time and like The Book Thief will become a classic. Don't miss it - read it now.
I must also say thanks to Eclectic Reader, whose review of The Wild Girl is what prompted me to read it.

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge