Muriel Barbary has built up a warm following, as a writer of lyrical, mystical and- crucially- witty novels, with her 2006 hit The Elegance of the Hedgehog her calling card. Here she is reunited with the same translator, Alison Anderson, for a fashionable but unique take on the fairytale genre.
Perrault is, of course, the patron saint of French fairytales and folklore, and it’s that lighter, more elegant style that Barbery is channeling here in this tale of two talented women born to deliver the Kingdom of France from great danger- if only they knew it, and knew what they could achieve together.
Anderson’s translation is clearly perfectly sympathetic with the original lyrical and erudite style, making this an engrossingly readable narrative mixing the best of magical folklore with relevant, adult characterisations. It’s not Game of Thrones-level bloodshed and perversity, but an emotional, entertaining examination of magic in the modern world.
The Lives of Elves by Muriel Barbery. Published by Gallic Books. List price: £12,99
From France Today magazine