Today I’m attempting a five minute review.
I haven’t gone mad I promise you.
Recently, I’ve been reading more book blogs and I’ve come to a conclusion. I write too bloody much. I think reviews should be detailed and long but I don’t think too many people agree. Today I bring a compromise. I adore the Penguin little black books and I want to buy more of them. T and I have two currently and they are perfect for a short 5-minute review. Any readers who love books but are consistently hellishly broke these are a lifesaver. For £1 a go they are fantastic and I’m going to start reviewing allllll of them for you.
In 5 minutes.
I’m going to type up the blurb, then set a five minute timer on my phone and then GO GO GO. I’ll tidy the grammar and make sure it makes sense but I’m going to try to stick to the 300 seconds. Wish me luck.
‘There sat the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels’
Though criticised for their anarchic immorality when first published, Hans Christian Andersen’s tales made him an international star, taken to the hearts of children and adults for their beauty, sorrow and strangeness. Included here are ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’ and ‘Big Klaus and Little Klaus’. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin’s 80th birthday.
Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.
These stories were a really mixed bunch. Some I loved and some I struggled with. I know that Hans Christian Andersen’s tales tend to include morals. But in the Tinderbox and Little Claus and Big Claus the moral was well. Cloudy. Unless the moral is that if someone isn’t particularly smart you can kill them and take everything they own (shrugs.) The Princess and the Pea was marginally better but I didn’t realise how short it was. At a page long it didn’t light a fire for me.
The Nightingale however is an utterly beautiful haunting tale. It tells the tale of a bird with a beautiful song who is replaced by a clockwork nightingale which can imitate rather than create. The Nightingale escapes the clutches of those that want to contain her and all are happy. A slightly terrifying moral in our digital world. The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a tale that is often imitated. The love story is between a toy soldier who is missing a leg and a toy dancer. The soldier believes the dancer also has one leg but it is stretched high above her leg. The Soldier goes on a frightening journey – perilous and dangerous. But he makes it home. Only to be cast into the fire, but the dancer follows. Reduced to ash.
The story ends,
“The tin soldier stood there, brightly lit, and felt a terrible heat, but whether it was from the actual fire or from love, he didn’t know.”
How goddamn haunting is that?
The final story is the tale of The Red Shoes. Shoes that become attached to a girl’s feet and she’s unable to stop dancing. Her feet are chopped off by an executioner but the shoes continue to dance. Terrifying.
Andersen is a master of fairy tales and this tiny collection is a beautiful selection to dive into and enjoy. Entertaining, terrifying, bleak and also humorous rolled into one they made me a little nostalgic. They also made me want to dig into more of his writing very, very soon.