The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Once there were six sisters. The pretty one, the musical one, the clever one, the helpful one, the young one…And then there was the Wild one. Dortchen Wild has loved Wilhelm Grimm since she was a young girl. Under the forbidding shadow of her father and the tyranny of Napoleon’s Army, the pair meet secretly to piece together a magical fairy tale collection”

REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this wonderful combination of historical fiction, romance and fairy tales. Although extremely slow to progress, Dortchen’s budding relationship with Wilhelm Grimm is well worth waiting for, and is instantly believable, growing from a childhood affection into a desperate need that neither of them are quite able to deal with. The story is set in the town of Cassel, one of the many states of the Holy Roman Empire that would today make up part of Germany, against the backdrop of the bitter and bloody Napoleonic wars. The historical context is consistently kept in mind and the twists and turns that come with Napoleon’s victories and defeats are well-explained in a way that even a reader with no prior knowledge of such events could understand and find interesting. Dortchen’s childhood years are told in an extremely sensitive way, a method that continues when Forsyth tells the story of Dortchen’s later years and the horrific sexual and physical abuse she suffers at the hands of her father. Although not hugely graphic, these scenes were undoubtedly distressing to read, but the way in which Forsyth illustrates the psychological impact of these events on Dortchen and her relationship with Wilhelm is brilliantly done and in no way detracts from the seriousness of the issue at hand. Forsyth’s use of fairy tales to reflect the problems Dortchen is experiencing at that point in the novel is also extremely well done, adding a beautiful, magical element to the story that brightens even the darkest parts – for example, Dortchen’s telling of the the story about the princess whose father forms an attachment to her comes at a time when she fears to tell Wilhelm of the abuse she suffers. It is difficult not to give anything away by continuing in my discussion of the novel, so I shall simply state that this is a marvellous book and I am greatly looking forward to reading some of Forsyth’s other works. 

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