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The Juniper Tree


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Based loosely on the Brothers Grimm's "The Juniper Tree," this feminist fairytale of a single mother and an enchanted friendship will stay in readers' minds for its gruesome and hypnotic telling, and for its happy ending.

About the Author

Barbara Comyns (1909-1992) was born in Bidfordon-Avon, in the English county of Warwickshire. She was the author of several books, including Sisters by a River, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths, The Vet's Daughter, The Skin Chairs, and Out of the Red into the Blue, a work of nonfiction about Spain, where she lived for eighteen years. Sadie Stein is a writer and critic living in New York. She is a contributing editor to The Paris Review.


"A treasure from the 1980s...[The Juniper Tree] picks up the Grimm notion that an excess of maternal happiness can prove fatal...Comyns's prose is vivid and charmingly hurried... The Grimm story is about evil, revenge, and justice--an eye for an eye--but The Juniper Tree is about accidents, damage, and repair." --Christine Smallwood, Harper's

"The novel . . . achieves a life of its own, and allows Bella to emerge at last from her ordeal with a feminist, fertile, happy, fairy-tale ending. Hypnotic and enthralling in the process." --Kirkus Reviews

"Comyns's world is weird and wonderful . . . there's also something uniquely original about her voice. Tragic, comic and completely bonkers all in one, I'd go as far as to call her something of a neglected genius." --Lucy Scholes, The Observer "The Juniper Tree, which appeared in 1985, is one of Comyns's most successful, confident and curious productions. It has the clear pure narrative quality of a fable, but also shows a humanity and maturity." --Margaret Drabble "The Juniper Tree is a fairy tale that haunts me because even at the end the evil in it is never wholly undone. Through her reimagining of the wicked stepmother figure, Comyns speculates convincingly as to how damage escalates despite all conscious attempts to limit itself." --Helen Oyeyemi "I don't think there is any other novelist I've come across who writes so subtly the disturbing and the domestic." --Stuck in a Book (blog) "Comyns approaches the world as if everything is worthy of clear-eyed attention. In this novel in particular, she is better than any other writer I know at striking an impossible balance between accuracy, wonder, and disgust." --Brian Evenson, The Rumpus "Comyn's [CE1] voice has childlike qualities; she looks at everything in the world as though seeing it for the first time. In later books, though, her narrators' naivety is deployed in order to provoke horror; the gap between what the reader knows and the narrator doesn't serves to make the reader fascinated and fearful." --Emily Gould, The Awl "Here is a beautifully organized, well-written book that reads almost conversationally.... Delicate, tough, quick moving, it's a haunting amazing achievement..." --Financial Times "Comyns's heroines, and her novels, are plaintive, strange, and robust all at once.... As an exercise in reconstruction, using the old ingredients but producing a fable for a different age, The Juniper Tree could hardly have been more satisfactorily accomplished." --The Times Literary Supplement "Hypnotic and enthralling."--Kirkus Reviews

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