Monday, January 04, 2010

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye by A.S. Byatt

Publication Date: 1994
Pages: 272

Reason for Reading: Ana, from things mean a lot, wanted me to read it. When she recommends a book I will go above and beyond to get a copy.
The magnificent title story of this collection of fairy tales for adults describes the strange and uncanny relationship between its extravagantly intelligent heroine — a world renowned scholar of the art of story-telling — and the marvelous being that lives in a mysterious bottle, found in a dusty shop in an Istanbul bazaar. As A.S. Byatt renders this relationship with a powerful combination of erudition and passion, she makes the interaction of the natural and the supernatural seem not only convincing, but inevitable.

The companion stories in this collection each display different facets of Byatt's remarkable gift for enchantment. They range from fables of sexual obsession to allegories of political tragedy; they draw us into narratives that are as mesmerizing as dreams and as bracing as philosophical meditations; and they all us to inhabit an imaginative universe astonishing in the precision of its detail, its intellectual consistency, and its splendor.

Dear Ana,

I thought since I read this book because of you I would write this review in the form of a letter. I started this book in 2009, but it was only three days into the New Year that I finally finished it. When Eva found out that I was going to read it she said to just read the title story because that was the best one, but to be honest... I didn't like the last story. The last story is why it took me so long to finish this collection. I think I am finding that I don't really like A.S. Byatt. She is a brilliant writer, I do acknowledge that, but she doesn't work for me. She also writes beautifully, but I find that sort of writing tends to be a bit lost on me. I read The Children's Book by her in 2009 and had the same problem. I did give her a second chance, though. Whether or not there will be a third will have to wait.

I'm sorry I didn't like the book you suggested, Ana! It always makes me feel really bad when that happens... It really is my type of book, you were right there, but I am afraid that Byatt is not really my type of author...

The Glass Coffin -
I really liked this story. It was short and sweet. It is the story of a man who is a bit down on his luck, but through his kind heart and a bit of luck she changes his circumstances. He also helps out some secondary characters along the way, which results in a very well-written little tale. Nothing ground-breaking or overly memorable, but I am still glad I gave it a try.

Gode's Story -
A very strange romance story, but still enjoyable enough. Dancing plays a big part in this story, which is a common feature of fairy tales. In a few short pages Byatt does bring the characters to life, but again there is nothing amazing about the story. I liked it, but it is all ready beginning to fade from my memory.

The Story of the Eldest Princess -
This is actually my favourite story in the collection. In fairy tales the oldest and middle child tend to go on adventures that do not work out, while the youngest is the hero of the day. The eldest princess in this story is well-aware of the normal turn of events and attempts to have her own adventures. Byatt successfully pokes fun at the 'typical' fairy tale and creates a wonderful female character as a result. Wildlife and a witch also figure into the tale, but not necessarily how you would expect them to.

Dragon's Breath -
This is where the book started to lose interest for me. I know I read this story in its entirety, but I had to go flip through the pages to refresh my memory on what it was about. Normally I am very fond of dragon stories, but this one didn't really stick with me at all. Just an okay story that I read and promptly have forgotten...

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye -
This is the title story in the collection and said to be the best, but I didn't like it. It has all the trademark features of a story that I would really love, but I found that the writing did not draw me in at all. It's a real shame, too, but I was rather bored while reading it. Even for a short story I found it too long. That's one of my main problems with Byatt. I find it takes her twenty pages to tell something that I would be just as happy to hear about in five. I am sad this story didn't work for me, though.

Overall, just an okay read for me.


  1. Aw, I think it's hard to not like a book that was suggested to you, too. That's why I'm terrified of what you'll think of Teresa Edgerton's books when you get them. But we all have different tastes, and it's good for authors that we do, isn't it? I think so!

  2. I'm sorry this one didn't work for you, Kelly. You tried at least.

  3. Sorry to hear you weren't nuts about it! I'm still really excited about reading Byatt. I haven't read anything by her still! I really need to. And I've been meaning to answer your question for days..yes! I'm reading Tender Morsels right now :p And I'd love to do a buddy review...I'm on like page 260 right now!

  4. Sorry you didn't like this one. I think I might though so I may still give this author a try one day.

  5. Anonymous7:46 AM

    I like your review/letter format. Shame you didn't enjoy it. I am really looking forward to reading something by her and making up my own mind.

  6. I didn't say to JUST read the title novella! Although I did love it. :) And "The Eldest Princess" was my fave of the shorter stories too!

    See-this is why even though Byatt is one of my very favourite authors, I don't usually recommend her to people. She's a total love-or-hate kind of writer, and I can never guess where people are going to fall. But at least Ana and I can be fangirls together, hehe.

  7. Don't feel bad, Kelly! While I love her, I can see why she's not everyone's cup of tea, and at least you tried. And I very much appreciated your letter anyway :D

  8. I liked Possession but haven't read anything else by her. I've been considering this one, but now have some doubts. I think I'll wait for the library to get it, and then read a story or two.

    Today I got your card in the mail! Thanks!

  9. I LOVED Possession but this one wasn't my favorite. I think I enjoyed the Story of the Eldest Princess -- which is in Possession too. Some of the others likewise bored me and I think I skipped the Dragon one.

    But that said, I enjoyed the other Byatt I read and I'm really looking forward to The Children's Book.

  10. I haven't read any Byatt. Now you have me scared to pick one up!!

    maybe short stories are the way to go....

  11. A real shame you didn't enjoy Byatt's writing, but most authors aren't for everyone. I have not yet read her, but hope to read Possession this year. Great review though.

  12. I haven't read any Byatt, but I'm interested to try Possession or the Children Book. Daunting. I'm not sure if it's gonna be this year..

  13. This is nice. You are such a book worm. Thanks for providing us with reviews. NOw i know which books are a must read.


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