Title: Tender Morsels
Author: Margo Lanagan
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 14, 2008
Hardcover: 448 pages
Where’d I Get It: Library
Synopsis (From Goodreads): 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?
My Thoughts: I am nearly always a fan of retellings of classic fairy tales. Nearly always. Honestly, I can’t say whether I hated this novel or loved it. It certainly is not a novel for just anyone, and I definitely don’t think it’s appropriate for the younger side of the Young Adult age range. In fact, I’m pretty sure the themes in this book (incest (forced), more rape, hints of bestiality, forced abortions, suicide contemplation, sodomy (again…forced), gang rape…) make it way too intense for the younger set and is perhaps a touch too over the top for some adults. That said…
Liga is a character you want to see persevere. You want to see her thrive and live and just -be- with no further atrocities committed against her. My heart really did ache for her. That’s really the only reason I kept reading – I did have to find out what happened to the poor girl.
I think that though Lanagan tended toward overly detailed and graphic scenes in some cases (namely the rape, forced abortions, other sexual encounters) and added in a ton of superfluous verbiage, the bones of the story were good. There are some scenes in the book that are just a real delight to read so I am definitely glad I didn’t give up after the first two chapters. Some of the characters are incredibly well thought out (and some not) and I think the interplay between characters and personalities was well done. The dialogue was a bit stilted and not entirely believable, but it wasn’t completely horrible either. All in all, I think a few more editing sessions would have ironed things out nicely.
Hopefully without giving away too much, I will say that I absolutely hated the ending of the book. Really? After all that? Ugh. It was so incredibly unfulfilling.
As far as recommending this book to anyone – no, I absolutely would not. I’m not the squeamish type when it comes to reading tough topics and I’m absolutely not one to say a book should just disappear from the shelves, but the world would not be worse for it if Tender Morsels simply ceased to exist.
Rating: 2 of 5
Superfluous verbiage? Haha, Hello, pot.
Definitely a difficult read and not for everyone. But so compelling, so painful, so beautiful (even in a grotesque way) … I think it’s kind of spectacular.
I’m very interested in what you say about it not being for a YA audience, but I think this is exactly what is wonderful about books, and books for YAs in particular, is that they can explore dark themes and actions, which as humans fascinate us no end. And it’s a safe way to be exposed to these things. What do you think?
Perhaps I should have put a winky face there with the ‘superfluous verbiage’ – I suppose it would have gotten the point across a bit better. Also, I said I think it’s over the top for the -younger- side of Young Adult. Again, I should have clarified – I don’t think it would be an appropriate read for most 12, 13, 14 year olds. It should, at the very least, have some kind of warning so that parents can judge for themselves whether or not their underage teen-folk can or should read that particular book.
As far as it being a safe way to be exposed to such themes, certainly it is! I’d rather it be a book than a movie, for example. I’d rather it be in a controlled setting with a parent at the ready to discuss such difficult topics.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t think it was an entirely horrible novel. The themes can be written about in such a way that it makes the book fabulous (I adored Forbidden, by Tabitha Suzuma) and I just don’t think Ms. Lanagan pulled it off well enough.
Thanks for the comment, by the way! 🙂
I figured you were being funny – it made me giggle so I had to comment on it.
Definitely agree that 12 year olds and even 14 year olds wouldn’t get a lot out of this book and when I was a bookseller I wouldn’t have recommended it to them. When a book is marketed as YA I automatically recognise it is 14/15 and upwards. I love the US “middle grade” stamp for the books for 10-14, glad it’s becoming known in Australia too. Having a warning on a book makes me uncomfortable, I’m just all for informed booksellers and librarians.
Your review does get across that there were parts of the book that you thought were good, or worthy – until that last paragraph at least. I’m a Margo fan and love the way she uses language and hope she finds readers all around the world. I just have to keep reminding myself that we can’t all like the same things!
I actually agree about the warning on the/a book. Honestly, I’m not sure how one would go about disclaiming that this book, though YA in label, might not be for the younger crowd. Many parents see YA and automatically read it as “suitable for my 12 year old!”
I would definitely read something else Margo Lanagan just to see how I feel about her writing in general.
Do you have any recommendations?
I just love her short story collection ‘Black Juice’ for the first story in it ‘Singing my sister down’ which is beautiful and tragic. The new collection ‘Yellowcake’ is pretty remarkable too. And her latest release ‘Sea Hearts’ (‘The Brides of Rollrock Island’ outside of Aus) is a novel of connected stories from multiple narrators. Highly recommended!