“…And ’round about the time of rediscovering the fairy tale, I shed some of my high seriousness and decided that a writer has a right to learn from what they intensely enjoy as well as what makes them think and understand. (I do know that thinking and understanding are also almost always a form of pleasure.)”
–A. S. Byatt
The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, by A. S. Byatt, is a small book of five stories, beautifully written “fairy tales” with a modern twist. They are very enjoyable tales that definitely make you “think and understand.”
The first two stories in the book had already been published in her book, Possession, so they were familiar to me. The title story, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, is actually a novella, and made up the bulk of the book. It was an amazing work, very imaginative and sensual. Byatt is a brilliant storyteller writing about a story that happens to a storyteller! Dr. Gillian Perholt is an English “narratologist” in Turkey for a conference (on storytelling), where she finds a beautiful glass bottle (the nightingale’s eye) in a dusty old shop. When she takes off the stopper and begins to wash the bottle, a djinn appears and, of course, grants her three wishes. How she handles the three wishes is fun and thought-provoking. But the story is also filled with the stories Perholt hears in the conference, and the Djinn’s own story, and they are all fascinating! So, this is a very multilayered, intelligent story, with stories within the stories, and is lots of fun.
I listened to the audiobook version of this book, narrated by Virginia Leishman, and absolutely loved the storytelling/listening experience. Byatt’s writing is such a pleasure to read or listen to, and Leishman is a perfect voice for her work.