Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
8 November, 2010
I’ve been wanting to read this collection of short stories since I first heard that Neil Gaiman and Sarah Waters were fans of Kelly Link. Imagine being endorsed by such greats! And as the days become shorter, and the nights draw in, I just felt like reading something chilling and gothic. However, Kelly Link‘s Pretty Monster wasn’t really gothic enough for me although it is a wonderful collection of strange tales. It’s described as tall tales on the back cover (which I should have really read), but the the black and yellow cover art fooled me into thinking there would be some gruesome ghosts. Which there were, but not really my kind. There were notes of Buffy and other American teen tv and films (which I love watching) but I guess it just wasn’t the flavour I was looking for at that particular moment. Maybe it was a little too modern for me.
But, there was one story which enchanted me and that was The Constable of Abal. Set in a country that doesn’t exist, the story is about a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, sticking with her mercurial mother as they travel across the country telling fortunes, blackmailing clients and living the high life. They catch ghosts on the ends of ribbons and feed them with little drops of blood. And one day, things change as the mother takes a job as a housekeeper all the while searching for something. It was a beautiful story which filled my head with wonder and I loved it.
I also liked The Faery Handbag which reminded me a little of Rip Van Winkle and Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men. In this story the narrator’s grandmother is from a country with a strange name that was absorbed into her magical handbag from which occasionally emerges strange people. Imagine having a handbag like that!
Magic for Beginners reminded me a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and felt like a homage to the cult tv series and The Specialist’s Hat was probably the most chilling tale in the collection. And finally The Wrong Grave which opened the collection was a rather funny and sweet ghost story.
So I guess I enjoyed more than half of the stories in Pretty Monster. The collection itself reminded me a little of Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu although less magical in a literary sense.
And I have to mention the illustrations by Shaun Tan which were whimsical and beautiful and complemented the stories perfectly.
I was aiming to read this for R.I.P. V Challenge but, alas, I couldn’t finish it in time.
Have you read Pretty Monsters? What did you think of it?