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Book Review: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Title: Tender Morsels

Author: Margo Lanagan

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Knopf Young Adult (US) / David Fickling Books (UK)
Publication Date: October 1998 (US) / July 2009 (UK)
Hardcover: 448 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel

Why did I read this book: Tender Morsels has achieved a lot of buzz online – not only has it been nominated for a number of SFF awards, it also seems to stir up some controversy concerning its Young Adult label. So, when offered a copy of Margo Lanagan’s novel, of course I accepted! I had to see for myself what exactly this fairy tale retelling was all about…

Summary: (from amazon.com)
Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

Review:

Tender Morsels has me stumped. On the one hand, it is a lushly written novel about horrible things, and I can only marvel at Ms. Lanagan’s storytelling skills and her ability to craft such a beautifully cruel fable. On the other, I have to admit that while this book was powerful and well done, I didn’t like it. It’s with these contradictory emotions that I set out and attempt to write this review, so please, bear with me (bad pun, apologies).

This provocative young adult novel is a retelling of the brothers Grimm collected fable of Snow White and Rose Red – which is not to be confused with the other Grimm Snow White (of the wicked sorceress queen, seven dwarves and poison apples). In Snow White and Rose Red, two sisters are raised by an impoverished widow in a wooded cottage. One winter’s night, a bear knocks on their cottage door and the family invites him in, beating the snow from his thick fur and accepting him as a dear friend for every night that winter. There’s also a dwarf in this tale, who gets himself stuck in strange situations by his glorious, long white beard. The two girls help free the dwarf time and time again, but he is ever ungrateful for their meddling. The last time the girls see the dwarf, the bear is with them – and the dwarf, enraged and terrified tries to flee the hulking, angry beast. The bear eats the dwarf and thus breaks the evil enchantment that has been placed on him, for the bear is actually an ensorcelled prince, transformed into the guise of a bear after the dwarf stole his gold. Snow White marries the Prince, and Rose Red marries his brother – and they all live happily ever after.

The compassionate children instantly seized hold  of the little man, held him fast, and struggled so long  that the eagle let his prey go  - Illustration by Warwick Goble

Snow White and Rose Red free the dwarf from the clutches of a hawk

Margo Lanagan’s take on the fable is decidedly less happy. In the outskirts of a small town, Liga Longbourne lives alone with her father, who rapes and abuses her. Liga, completely estranged from the outside world under her father’s strict rule, endures this isolated, terrible life until her thirteenth year when she realizes the painful thing she’s expelling from her body is a stillborn baby. After two forced abortions from her father’s remedies (courtesy of the local mudwitch), Liga decides to hide her latest pregnancy, desperate for a companion of her own. When her father suddenly dies in an accident, she finds herself completely alone for the first time in her life, and gives birth to a beautiful, healthy and fair complexioned baby girl. Unfortunately for Liga, five town boys have seen her – without a man, with child, and therefore fair game – and they brutally rape her in her cottage. Unable to take any more cruel reality, Liga tries to kill her innocent child as an act of mercy, and then kill herself – but she’s stopped by an act of magic. To spare Liga the cold, unfair world she has lived in, the magic grants her an alternate reality where she can raise her daughters – for the gang rape has left her pregnant once more – in safety and peace. Everyone in Liga’s new world is kind and understanding, from the townspeople to the animals, and for many years she and her two daughters, the elder Branza (for her fair complexion and mild manners) and younger Urdda (for her dark coloring and wildness) live a happy, sheltered life.

Of course, things can never stay so picturesque forever. A greedy dwarf with the help of the same mudwitch of Liga’s past creates holes into Liga’s paradise world, gathering and stealing treasures to make him rich in the ‘real world’. Through the tears he has made between worlds, a man dressed as a Bear for the town’s ceremonial night stumbles through to Liga’s cottage, only he has transformed into a true Bear. “Bear” becomes a cherished friend to Liga and her two toddler daughters, and in turn, Bear falls in love with the kind and gentle mother. But one summer day, Bear disappears, stumbling back into the real world on the same night that he had disappeared, as though his time in Liga’s world has been a dream. Urdda, headstrong and eager for her own adventure, later follows the path that Bear took and years later is able to find a more powerful witch to bring Liga and Branza to her in the real world – and once again, Liga must confront the cold reality of the world she has left behind, and the consequences of raising her daughters in a dream land.

As you can see, Tender Morsels is a far cry from a bedtime story of beautiful princesses, fairy rainbows and kindred animals. Within the first 100 pages, incest, rape, and child abuse are brutally inflicted on young Liga, heroine of this novel. Some readers may take issue with the heavy subject matter, but I did not, especially since Ms. Lanagan handles this well without sensationalizing or going into graphic detail. The harsh truth is that incest, abuse and rape are realities that many young adults and teens experience, and Ms. Lanagan tackles these realities in a bold, effective way. Similarly, the quality of writing in Tender Morsels is undeniably strong. Each of the characters speaks in a unique dialect, and Ms. Lanagan’s prose is lush and evocative, conveying both beauty and pain in equal measure. More than that, Ms. Lanagan writes characters with an acute understanding of their emotions and dreams, crafting a cast that thrums with life.

When a girl of fourteen wants a thing – when she has wanted it all her conscious life; when she senses it near and bends all her hope, and all her will, and all her power to it – sometimes, sometimes her self and her desires will be of such material that worlds will move for her. Or parts of worlds, their skins particularly, will soften to her pressure, and break in a thousand small and undramatic ways, so that she may reach through, so that what seemed a wall reveals itself to be only thought of a wall, or a wall constructed of bricks of smoke, mortared with mist. There is a smell to such workings, and Urdda smelled it here and now at the rim of the bear-scent, as if someone had held a flaming brand near that bear-fur so that it began to singe and smoke and reek.

No, I certainly cannot fault Tender Morsels for any deficiency in writing – for it is a beautifully crafted story.

But, at the end of the day, for all the beauty of Ms. Lanagan’s writing and for the rich and believable characters she creates with the weary Liga, the innocent Branza and the headstrong Urdda, I simply could not like the story I was reading.

I’m of the firm belief that no subject matter is “inappropriate” for teens, or for any literature, for that matter. The weighty issues that begin Tender Morsels are not the reason why I could not connect with this book. Rather, my emotional limbo is mostly a product of two main factors – the question of stereotyping, and the question of cruelty.

First, there’s the question of stereotyping. Of the two daughters, Branza is the Snow White character – she’s pale and fair, beautiful, gentle and completely meek. Branza loves her mother’s dream world, she never causes any trouble, she’s friend to all animals, and she’s completely mild and agreeable. Then, there’s Urdda, the Rose Red character. In contrast to her fair, perfect sister, Urdda is dark complexioned (it is mentioned earlier in the book that one of the boys who gang raped Liga is a foreigner whose face looks “sooted”), and temperamental, and altogether wildness personified. She’s also the selfish sister, the one who demands to know answers and who brings her family out from their quiet, protected dream world. This dichotomy of the fair skinned diligent good girl, against the dark skinned, willful wild girl bothers me. It’s a stereotype as old as the fairy tale Tender Morsels is retelling, but translates poorly at least to me, as a reader. Branza, the white, the untainted and the dutifully unquestioning is rewarded, while Urdda with her dusky complexion and demanding, inquisitive nature is the one who suffers because of her wildness. And this too blends into my next reason for discomfort with the novel:

There’s also the question of cruelty. Not the rape and other acts inflicted upon Liga – but rather the cruelty that the author inflicts on her in the last third of the book. I could argue that the entire last third or so of the book is completely unnecessary, as this is where the book fell apart (for me). Liga is the protagonist of the story. It is with Liga’s struggles that we begin Tender Morsels, and it is by her strength in raising two girls born of horrible, unspeakable circumstances that the novel takes root and blossoms. But in the ending of the book, I cannot help but feel that a cruelty of the greatest, most unforgivable kind is enforced on Liga as a character, for purposes of literary shock value. I do not wish to explicitly spoil, but simply will say that by the end of the novel, I felt betrayed and emotionally exploited. I’m all for bittersweet stories or those with unhappy endings, but this ending was unnecessary and reenforced my discomfort with character stereotypes. Liga, for all that she has been through and endured for her daughters is still tainted, broken Liga. Her untouched daughters – especially the dutiful and pure as snow Branza – are the ones who receive the happy ending.

So, I’m at a loss to truly assign a grade or rate to Tender Morsels. The book is unquestionably powerful and well-written, but certain facets of the story left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. While I did not particularly like this book and will not in all likelihood read it again, I feel like I accomplished something by reading it. And I encourage others to give it a try, to form your own opinions.

Notable Quotes/Parts: Here’s the official excerpt, from the first chapter:

Liga’s father fiddled with the fire, fiddled and fiddled. Then he stood up, very suddenly.

“I will fetch more wood.”

What’s he angry about? Liga wondered. Or worried, or something. He is being very odd.

Snow-light rushed in, chilling the house. Then he clamped the door closed and it was cozy again, cozy and empty of him. Liga took a deep private breath then blew it out, slowly. Just these few moments would be her own.

But her next breath caught rough in her throat. She opened her eyes. Gray smoke was cauliflowering out of the fireplace, fogging the air. The smell! What unnamable rubbish had fallen in the fire?

She coughed so hard she must put aside the rush mat she was binding the edge of and give her whole body over to the coughing. Then pain caught her, low, and folded her just like a rush-stalk, it felt, in a line across her belly, crushing her innards. She could hardly get breath to cough. Sparks that were not from the fire jiggled and swam in her eyes—she could not see the fire for the smoke. She could not believe what she was feeling.

The pain eased just as abruptly. It let her get up. It gave her a moment to stagger to the door and open it, her insides dangerous, liquid, hot with surprise and readying to spasm again.

Her father was halfway back from the woodpile, his arms full. He bared his teeth at her, no less. “What you doing out?” White puffs came with the words. “Get back inside. Who said you could come out?”

“I cannot breathe in there.” The cold air dived down her throat and she coughed again.

“Then go in and don’t breathe! Shut the door—you’re letting the smoke out. You’re letting the heat.” He dropped the wood in the snow.

“Has the chimney fallen in? Or what is it?” She wanted to step farther out and look.

But he sprang over the logs and ran at her. She was too surprised to fight him, and her insides were too delicate. The icicled edge of the thatch swept down across the heavy sky, and she was on the floor, the door slammed closed above her. It was dark after the snow-glare, the air thick with the billowing smoke. Outside, he shouted—she could not hear the words—and hurled his logs one by one at the door.

She pressed her nose and mouth into the crook of her elbow, but she had already gulped smoke. It sank through to her deepest insides, and there it clasped its thin black hands, all knuckles and nerves, and wrung them, and wrung them.

Time stretched and shrank. She seemed to stretch and shrink. The pain pressed her flat, the crashing of the wood. Da muttered out there, muttered forever; his muttering had begun before her thirteen years had, and she would never hear the end of it; she must simply be here while it rose from blackness and sank again like a great fish into a lake, like a great water snake. Then Liga’s belly tightened again, and all was gone except the red fireworks inside her. The smoke boiled against her eyes and fought in her throat.

The pains resolved themselves into a movement, of innards wanting to force out. When she next could, she crawled to the door and threw her fists, her shoulder, against it. Was he out there anymore? Had he run off and left her imprisoned? “Let me out or I will shit on the floor of your house!”

There was some activity out there, scraping of logs, thuds of them farther from the door. White light sliced into the smoke. Out Liga blazed, in a dirty smoke-cloud, clambering over the tumbled wood, pushing past him, pushing past his eager face.

But it was too late for the cold, clean air to save her; her insides had already come loose. She could not run or she would shake them out. Already they were drooling down her legs. She must clamp her thighs together to hold them in, and yet walk, and yet hurry, to the part of the forest edge they used for their excrements.

She did not achieve it. She fell to her knees in the snow. Inside her skirt, so much of her boiling self fell away that she felt quite undone below the waist, quite shapeless. No, look: sturdy hips. Look: a leg on either side. A blue-gray foot there, the other there. Gingerly, Liga sat back in a crouch to lift her numbing knees off the snow. The black trees towered in front of her, and the snow dazzled all around. She heaved and brought up nothing but spittle, but more of her was pushed out below by the heaving.

She crouched, panting. From her own noises she knew she had become some kind of animal; she had fallen as low as she could from the life she had had before Mam died. Everything had slid from there, out of prosperity, out of town, out of safety, when Mam went, and this was where of course it ended, with Liga an animal in the snow, tearing herself to pieces with the wrongness of everything.

With one last heave, her remaining insides dropped out of her. She knelt over their warmth, folded herself down, and waited to die.

But she did not die there. The snow pained against her forehead and her knees, and the fallen mass of her innards began to lose its heat in the tent of her skirt.

She tried to lift herself off it. At first her knees would not unbend, so she tipped herself forward onto her front . . . paws, they felt like, her front claws. And hoisted her bottom up from there.

“Oh, my Gracious Lady.” Her voice sounded drunken and flat. Between pink footprints, her innards lay glossy and dark red. Her feet were purple, blotched yellow, weak and wet with melting pink snow.

She should go back to the house—that was all she knew. And so she labored towards it, top-heavy, slick-thighed, numb-footed, and hollow, glancing behind as if afraid the thing would follow her, along its own pink trail.

Da snatched the door open as soon as she touched it. He stood there, hands on hips. “What’s a-matter with you?” The air around him was clear and warm; in the crook of his arm, the fire flowed brightly up around the new logs. Would he even let her in?

Additional Thoughts: Though less known than its Disney-popular character of the same name, the tale of Snow White and Rose Red is making some appearances in the literary world. First, there’s the more easygoing retelling from young adult author Patricia C. Wrede (whose Enchanted Forrest novels were some of my favorites as young reader), titled Snow White and Rose Red:

Snow White and Rose Red live on the edge of the forest that conceals the elusive border of Faerie. They know enough about Faerie lands and mortal magic to be concerned when they find two human sorcerers setting spells near the border. And when the kindly, intelligent black bear wanders into their cottage some months later, they realize the connection between his plight and the sorcery they saw in the forest. This romantic version of the classic fairy tale features an updated introduction by its editor, Terri Windling.

And, of course, there’s the brilliant re-imagining of the two sisters in Bill Willingham’s ongoing comic book, Fables.


You can check out our Joint Review of Fables Volume 1: Legends In Exile HERE. (And though I haven’t reviewed all the current graphic novels and issues, rest assured, they are wonderful)

Verdict: On an intellectual level, on an aesthetic level, Tender Morsels is a beautiful gem of a novel. It’s written well with compelling characters, and with an original take on an old fable. For that alone, I would give the novel an 8. But as for a deeper, emotional experience? I could not bring myself to like this novel, and certain simplistic stereotypes as well as the unnecessary cruelty of the ending left me feeling hollow and exploited as a reader. Going with my gut, I’d give the book an emotional rating of a 4. So where does that leave me and the novel?

I’m cheating and including both ratings – and I strongly encourage all readers to give Tender Morsels a read and to form your own opinions. I’d be delighted to read your thoughts on this provocative novel.

Rating: 8 – Excellent for the writing; 4 – Horrible for the emotional exploitation.

Reading Next: The Devouring and Soulstice by Simon Holt

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22 Comments

  • Celia
    August 11, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for the thorough (and wonderful) review.

  • Shannon C.
    August 11, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I absolutely adored this book. I felt an immediate connection to Liga, and I found the story heartbreaking.

    I take your points re: the stereotyping and the cruelty, especially that last one. I wanted better for Liga in the end, but at least I closed the book feeling that, despite her last disappointment, she was still going to be OK, which, while not perfect, did at least satisfy me.

  • alana
    August 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I understand the stereotype you mentioned (that darker skin equates to being more “animalistic” or “savage”), but I don’t see how Urdda suffers for her wild nature. If anything, she is the one most satisfied with being in the “real world” and she has gotten to stay the correct age while her mother and sister have been made older (this of course is such a horrible thing to suffer).

    I’m a bit ashamed to admit I didn’t know how the original Grimm story ended, but I think I would have looked at the book differently if I had and the ending wouldn’t have been such a monumental let down. “Emotionally exploited” is really the best way to explain the hollow feeling I had and I didn’t like the way the book made me feel negatively towards Branza by the end of it.

    I also had an issue with the way the book started. I couldn’t be the only one stumbling along trying to figure out what the hell was going on. lol

  • AnimeJune
    August 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I’ve read Lanagan’s work before (the YA story collection “Black Juice”) and felt the same way – some stories are heart wrenchingly beautiful (pick this book up at the library for “Singing My Sister Down” – it’s the best story in the whole collection) while others are creeeeeeeepy creepy creepy (a story about a man who assassinates clowns).

    This sounds like a novel that, while beautiful, I would probably want to avoid.

  • Thea
    August 11, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Celia – My pleasure! I’d definitely be interested in seeing what you think of this one.

    Shannon – I can definitely understand how you feel, and I can see why people rave about this book because it really is stunningly written. It just wasn’t the book for me, unfortunately. I do think that Ms. Lanagan has a fantastic gift for storytelling and some really great imaginative ideas…I just felt so drained by the end of this book. Different strokes and all that! It’s kind of like how I feel about the Cohen Brothers. I can appreciate No Country for Old Men but dear lord how I really detest that movie.

    Alana – My feeling that Urdda suffered was when she questions her mother about her parentage (and then has to deal with the consequences of knowing). It’s not really “suffering” per se, but more the feeling that she was being chastised by the author for her challenging and inquisitive nature. (i.e. Urdda by being wild and demanding rightfully has to deal with the crap that she uncovers by her questions, whereas perfect lilywhite Branza will never have to deal with any of this because she is dutiful and quiet like a good daughter should be)

    But, while the light/dark thing bothered me, the biggest detractor was the ending. I have to agree – even though I knew the original fable, I thought Ms. Lanagan was going to go a different way with it here…and I was really bitter that she didn’t. It seemed unnecessary and cruel, and SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER

    watching Liga’s heart break all over again…it was a horrible thing to read.

    END SPOILER

    And yes, I was a bit confused at the beginning too! Though things did become clear as the story moves along.

    Anime June – Hmm, I’ll definitely have to check that out! Thanks for the rec! Tender Morsels is definitely a notable book, but not for everyone. Certainly not really for me.

  • KMont
    August 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    *Liga Longbourne lives alone with her father, who rapes and abuses her.*

    Oh gods…

    *and they brutally rape her in her cottage.*

    OK, gonna just exit stage…anywhere.

    That will sound shallow to some, but beautiful writing or not, this one’s definitely not for me.

    I’ve often wondered if it is an author’s responsibility to bring to light cruel, horrible, etc. situations that happen to people in real life, within the contexts of their fictional work. And if they don’t is that work less worthy of being praised as a wonderful piece of fiction? Because I see a lot of books covering harsh situations being praised very highly. It’s not that I don’t think such a book could not be bravely, wonderfully written. I suppose it’s just one of those thing I do not understand the appeal of. This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered on this and I let it get to me sometimes, why I don’t understand.

    Again, shallowness might be rearing its head, but I often don’t want to read about the cruelties of the real world in a book. Maybe the fact that this isn’t just a young character in a book, but a young character in a YA book that is making me churn. I think I need some antacids now.

    Of course, this also leads me to your point on whether or not it’s an inappropriate subject in a YA novel. But we’ve gone round the table on that one before and I’ll only reiterate that that needs to be between parent and child as every child has a different maturity level.

  • alana
    August 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Thea: I do agree with you about Urdda now that I think about it that way. It’s also ironic how annoyed I was when the author killed The Bear’s (his name has slipped my mind) wife only so we could have the ending we wanted. Then, when we didn’t get that ending, I was even more irritated. I guess there’s just no pleasing me. lol

    Kmont: I can understand what you’re saying, but it’s hard to nail down exactly why certain authors can write about sexual abuse or rape and why others can’t (in my own mind at least). What I liked specifically about this book, was the author’s honest look at incest and child molestation. Not only did she show that you can still be a good person if these things happen to you, but she also touched on the subject of sexual response in assault situations which I applaud her for since it is a much neglected side of abuse. (It’s hard reconciling the fact something so horrible can feel good to the body.)

    But then the author tries to justify the rape of the men who raped Liga in the beginning of the story and I can’t accept that. Rape is wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or a bad person. I may have more sympathy for an innocent 15 years old girl than I would a convicted rapist in prison, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable. As long as rape is used as a tool of punishment and degradation, on anyone, it will always be a problem.

  • Adrienne
    August 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Thea-I have been reading your site for a long time and I don’t think I have ever really seen such a torn, mixed reaction. I want to read it because of the way you love the story and you have great taste in books but I am afraid that I will throw it across the room upon completion. So are we talking emotional train wreck like Great And Terrible Beauty ending or worse? If it’s worse I might have to bail 🙁

  • Thea
    August 11, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Kmont – Yep, there’s some nastiness in this book. Incest, rape, abuse, men being truly horrible…but I think Ms. Lanagan does this at the beginning of the story to really show how desperate Liga’s situation is. I can definitely understand that some readers prefer not to read books with this material, and that’s totally your right as a reader. I don’t think that makes you shallow!

    As for in/appropriateness for YA novels, well that’s a whole other discussion! Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue, I do think it’s a good thing for parents to interact with their children, including in the literary realm. 🙂

    Alana – SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER It’s also ironic how annoyed I was when the author killed The Bear’s (his name has slipped my mind) wife only so we could have the ending we wanted. Then, when we didn’t get that ending, I was even more irritated.

    EXACTLY! When she died in childlabor, I started rolling my eyes but was happy because I so desperately wanted Liga to be happy. But then, when she completely ripped that away in a “PSYCH!!!!!” ending… oh it bothered me something terrible.

    /SPOILER

    Adrienne – LOL, it was a very very tough review to write.

    So are we talking emotional train wreck like Great And Terrible Beauty ending or worse?

    In my opinion, it is much much worse than the ending of GATB (which was emotionally draining, but still captivated me – speaking of, I really should read the next book in the series already). If that ending was hard…I’d steer clear of this book then!

    I hope that helps! 🙂

  • Rhiannon Hart
    August 11, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    I haven’t read your review but I will as soon as I’ve finished Tender Morsels myself. I’m going dystopian-fantasy-dystopian right now, staggering the genres! Graceling at the moment (I’m freaking in love with it), then Tomorrow by Marsden and then Tender Morsels. I did see you gave an 8 AND a 4 to this one, intriguing…

    I plan on having the Graceling review ready for Saturday!

  • Thea
    August 11, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Rhiannon – Staggering genres is always a good thing :mrgreen: So as not to get burned out and all. I’m a huge proponent!

    I’m eager to see what you think of Tender Morsels…my own thoughts are pretty conflicted (hence the 8 and 4 rating!).

    And hooray for Graceling! I loved it too. Katsa and Po are pretty awesome. I cannot wait to dig into its prequel/companion novel, Fire! Looking forward to your review 🙂

  • catie james
    August 11, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    When I read about the controversies surrounding this novel, it became a must read. I agree with you whole heartedly Thea that no subject should be taboo for teens and Ms. Lanagan had me right up until the final indignity she committed upon Liga. I didn’t need a complete 180 with some deus ex machina HEA; but subjecting her to all those previous brutalities, then leaving her with such a ridiculously bleak ending ruined the entire experience.

    Thank you for presenting both “grades” for TENDER MORSELS. I find the double assessment a balanced & fair critique of an engrossing, yet simultaneously disappointing read.

  • Adrienne
    August 12, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Thea, thanks for the reply! Ugh, so torn, not sure what to do…I really “hate” that anguish that a master author puts you through with an unsatisfying ending. Yes! please read the next two books in that series…middle of each book is a little plotting and takes a few pages to get where it needs to go but the last book stayed with me for a few weeks after I finished it, actually, it’s probably how Breaking Dawn should have ended and didn’t 8)

  • Thea
    August 12, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Catie – I completely agree. I didn’t particularly want a simple “and they got married and lived HEA” ending, but the way things unfolded was unforgivable, in my mind. Thanks, and I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one that felt this way!

    Adrienne – Well, with that kind of endorsement, how could I say resist? 🙂 Good thing I have Rebel Angels on my TBR.

  • Margo Lanagan
    August 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I don’t mean to make you all self-conscious, but I’ve been following these comments with great interest, and I respond to catie james and Thea’s remarks on the novel’s ending over here: http://amongamidwhile.blogspot.com/2009/08/unhappy-ever-after.html

  • Julia
    September 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I personally loved the book Tender Morsels. Knowing nothing about the book other than the jacket made it sound intriguing I picked it up and read it in eighth grade. 

    Warning: following paragraphs may contain spoilers!!!

    The story took me a while to get through being it was so intense in raw emotion but I the end I was rewarded. I have never read anything quite like it nor is it likely I shall again. 

    Sure I’ll admit that I was upset that Liga’s fate did not entwine with Brandon’s, yet that wouldn’t have fit right with the rest of the story. It would have been a perfect ending, but just that– too perfect. Too perfect for the tone of the novel. 

    I beg to differ in your opinion o the ending. It wasn’t the most satisfying an left you wondering, but not in a good sense. I felt a connection to Liga but it was incomplete at the end. All that aside, the ending was well. Liga didn’t get her fairytale ending but is happy for her two marvelous daughters. That their life has evened out to what they deserve and that they didn’t have to endure all she had. Liga had gone from feeling like an insignificant piece of scum to feeling worthwhile. Worthwhile in having brought up two caring daughters to better the world. 

    I fully recommend this book to anyone of any age (welllllll… Maybe not children under 13 for obvious reasons).

  • Katie
    April 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I had always steered clear of books like these. I’ve always read “safe” books. I also have a large collection of fairy tales thanks to my Mummy, so I’ve noticed the Snow White and Rose Red retelling. I still read the collection frequently. I’m sixteen so I’m still a kid, right? Ha. Whatever. I’ll re-read them until I’m 90.

    I’m very much into books that tale of romance, beauty and all things perfect and wonderful, but I’ve also recently realized that I’ve had a buried desire for dark and terrifyingly ‘real’ stories. Fairy tales have dark sides, too, which I love. I’ve also found that my own writing style is quite ‘dark and depressing’, as my friends like to put it.

    Tender Morsels is the only book I’ve ever read to shake me this much. I can’t describe the feeling I get when I read it. At first, I was completely numb to the first few pages. Perhaps it was because I was still deeply hung up about Mockingjay, but after three weeks, I picked the book up again and had an entirely different reaction. Like in this review, I did not connect to it the way I had hoped to, but the writing did take my breath away. Everything was just so vivid. I have read stories with incest, rape and such, but MAN, the way those awful things were written in this book is truly something I’ve never come across before.

    I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends, though. They would most likely shake their heads at its contents. They’re the kind of people who cannot appreciate something like Tender Morsels. A vampire ripping through a naked woman’s bare flesh right after he has sex with her is about as far as they can handle. However, I do have other friends, ones I am not so close to, that I know will definitely devour this book with every fiber of their being. I’m not exaggerating. They will appreciate the shit out of Tender Morsels. Pardon my language, but Squeee! So excited to present this to them!

    Also, the ending did leave me a bit sad, though not at all disappointed. I’m glad that the ending was not what I had expected because I had surprised myself when I actually felt content about it. Such a great read, this book.

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    August 3, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Interesting, well-written review. I read this recently and while it definitely felt like a fable to me, in style, I’m not familiar with the story of Snow White and Rose Red so I never clued in to that. I don’t think it would have changed how much I loved this! I was surprised at the YA tag, not because of subject matter but because of style. I would have loved this as a teenager though, it’s the kind of novel I longed to read – your more typical YA fare is like fairy floss in comparison: light, empty and too sweet. I liked the darkness, but I was also surprised by it. I so thought Liga would get the happiness I felt she deserved!

    Have to ask though, where did you get the original publication date as 1998? It was first published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in 2008 as far as I’m aware.

  • Review: Tender Morsels | Giraffe Days
    August 7, 2012 at 8:04 am

    […] “The book is unquestionably powerful and well-written, but certain facets of the story left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. While I did not particularly like this book and will not in all likelihood read it again, I feel like I accomplished something by reading it. And I encourage others to give it a try, to form your own opinions. […] On an intellectual level, on an aesthetic level, Tender Morsels is a beautiful gem of a novel. It’s written well with compelling characters, and with an original take on an old fable. […] But as for a deeper, emotional experience? I could not bring myself to like this novel, and certain simplistic stereotypes as well as the unnecessary cruelty of the ending left me feeling hollow and exploited as a reader.” The Book Smugglers […]

  • Matthew
    September 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I am so glad you reviewed this book. Many of my thoughts on the book are similar to yours, but I had no one to talk to about them! It just wasn’t the sort of book I felt I could recommend to my friends, despite it being so good — ouldn’t recommend not just because some of the content would upset some people too badly, but that ending… Overall, I think I liked it…? But… At any rate, some day I need to read another of her books and see if I can love it more wholeheartedly.

  • Audio Review: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan | Bunbury in the Stacks Audio Review: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan | One has the right to Bunbury anywhere one chooses. Every serious Bunburyist knows that. ~ Oscar Wilde
    November 16, 2012 at 4:03 am

    […] and at times, witnessing devastating scenes, do I tentatively recommend this book to.” The Book Smugglers – “The book is unquestionably powerful and well-written, but certain facets of the story […]

  • Margaret
    January 9, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I thought that this was a beautifully written feminist parable, dealing with adult themes in a sensitive and imaginative way. I’m surprised by the negativity both in the review and in the thread. As in fairytales, we have the dark/light conundrum of the daughters, but this never represents good and evil: wild, curious, magical Urdda is the one that we ultimately love and identify with. She is finally the daughter with autonomy and power. I could have done without the reciprocal rape at the end (it was the one false note for me) but Liga’s unrequited love for a man who sees her as older, therefore romantically invisible, was exactly how it would be in real life, and should be in a novel this original and challenging. Loved it.

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