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A Curse as Dark as Gold, Elizabeth Bunce

2010/03/29

Reinterpreting fairy tales and folklore have always been a favourite starting point of authors. This debut novel by Elizabeth Bunce is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin; however, as we discussed the book in a class, I was astonished that some of my fellow students were unfamiliar with the original tale. It made me wonder if teens today are also distanced from fairy tales, with fond childhood memories of cartoons and video games rather than stories of magic and talking animals.

Charlotte Miller and her sister, Rosselen, are the only daughters of the Miller family, which has run Stirwaters wool mill for generations. After the death of their father, their mother’s brother arrives with the intent of selling off the mill and marrying off the sisters. But they have other plans in mind – Charlotte is determined to make the mill profitable and self-sustaining after years of plateau. However, every attempt seems to be met with set-backs, and despite the help of the handsome young banker, Randall Woodhouse, the Millers’ enterprise seems doomed, until a strange man shows up, offering to spin straw into gold thread.

The narrative in this novel is a bit slow, and at nearly four hundred pages, it is slow going. As Charlotte works through a series of frustrating experiences, the reader may feel a bit like trudging through a swamp and wondering when the story will make progress. Though Charlotte is an adequate narrator, there are so many threads going throughout that it is sometimes difficult to follow her train of thought. Charlotte has a good relationship with her sister, although they both try to protect and shelter one another, creating some exasperated conflict. Similarly, Charlotte keeps her husband out of many of her decisions because she does not want him to become overly involved; she feels that the mill is her responsibility, and only reluctantly shares that burden with her family.

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