This was so good! I couldn't put it down. I'm not a huge fantasy lover so fairies didn't appeal to me (although it was interesting to see them hidden in plain sight in the world) but I loved the characters, the friendship between the women, the plot, and the twists and turns. I appreciated how the male and female characters both had great character growth throughout the novel. I was happy it tied together so nicely in the end but I also kind of wanted to anxiously wait for a sequel.
It's always a toughie to write a story based on true crime or real tragic events. There's always a risk of veering into misery porn and all the lurid details, at the detriment of giving victims the respect and compassion they're due. And all in all, it's risky to *actually* include fairies in a retelling of Bridget Cleary's story, because you might very well find yourself with a Philippa Gregory situation where you decide to make Jacquetta of Luxemburg and Elizabeth Woodville actual witches, while that was precisely an accusation that plagued them in real life based on jealousy and wanting to tear them down from a privileged position, and that could have very well led to their death like with many other women - ya know, just a wee bit insensitive.
In this story, while this Bridget was actually involved with fairies (and that's all I'm willing to say without going into spoilers territory), it is careful to portray as a woman who was brave, hard-working, but caring and fearless, who accompanies her daughter as a guardian angel of sorts through her impossible quest to appease the Fairy Queen, and whose said involvement with fairies stops nothing short of heroic. I very, VERY rarely cry reading books, but the reveals about the Cleary family were touching enough it pulled out a few tears from me. Okay. I was bawling. And drinking a beer.
The story plays like your typical Victorian period melodrama pastiche (in a good way), with a plucky heroine, Brigid, and her fairy sisterhood of Adelaide and Florence, sisterhood, as they are pitted (among other things) against a fictional member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood all too reminiscent of their tendency to idealize their models perhaps a bit too much (*cough* #justiceforlizziesiddal *cough*). They are much more central to Brigid's story than her love interest is, a young nobleman by the name of Edmund who's somewhere between a himbo and a male ingenue. The story plays with themes of class, oppression, Victorian gender norms, but while the revenge is brought to a satisfactory but unexpected resolution, it manages to bring on themes of forgiveness and redemption that could easily be trite and tacked on, but are well-integrated to the story and meaningful.
All in all, this is a lovely debut that I recommend checking out if you're looking for Victorian-set stories with a dash of fantasy - and I promise that the history nerd that I am didn't have any eye-twitches. You're in good hands.
purloining! ladies' pugilism! perfidious painters and pre-raphelite models!
but most of all: fairies, cool gold, and hot, bloody revenge.
The Revenge of Bridget Cleary is a story of betrayal and fear, and the savage hate it begets; a story of killing the thing you fear instead of learning how to deal with it, even if that means trying to burn it from your blood and the blood of those you should love.
it's a story of running wild with the fairies, spitting treacle tart crumbs in good company, and deceiving the man you love while gazing into his eyes. if Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell had a baby with Greta Gerwig's Little Women, this is certainly the wild, weird little book baby that would come out.