Fair Peril

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 21, 1997

Fair Peril by Nancy Springer

Attendees: Cyndi Dunn, Wes Dunn , Shirley Crossland, and Willie Siros.

This book begins with a woman who has just turned forty and is trying to get her life back together after her divorce. Walking through the park one day, she runs across a frog who tries to convince her that a kiss will turn him into a handsome prince. Buffy has had enough of men lately, charming or otherwise, but decides a talking frog would be a good addition to her professional story-telling repertoire. So she takes him home, never thinking that her teenage daughter may be more susceptible to a charming frog’s wiles…

Despite rumors that many of the male members of the reading group stayed away on the grounds that this is a “woman’s book,” the two men who were present seemed to have enjoyed it. Willie commented that it’s nice to see someone break out of the Celtic high-fantasy tradition to do something this new and creative. Springer combines some very humorous updating of traditional fairy tales with a nuanced consideration of the main character’s personal conflicts about her own life choices and those of her daughter. (Shirley’s comment: Where was this book when _I_ was forty?) There are also a lot of strong secondary characters including the teenage daughter, a mother-in-law fairy godmother with a “purse full of guilt”, and a very quirky librarian who magically creates exactly the right book for every customer. There was some feeling that the author was overly heavy-handed in explaining Jungian symbolism to the unitiated, but we generally liked the new perspective she provided on some of the traditional themes: Maybe marryng Prince Charming isn’t really the best choice for a sixteen-year-old. Perhaps the prince is sometimes as passively trappd by role expectations as the princess. And most of all, the idea that we all have the power to change our own stories.

–Cyndi Dunn