Six-Gun Snow White

Six-Gun Snow White

From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title’s heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves.
A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother’s death in childbirth, so begins a heroine’s tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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You’re in a story and the body writing it is an asshole.

There are stories and there are characters. Then, you also have stories with characters and characters with stories.

But what Valente does is entirely different. She creates her characters, and they move on, swirl around, slowly and surely coalescing into a story, pushing it forward even as they become the story.

Six-Gun Snow White is a retelling and it stays very true to the original fairytale, but it is much more honest and original than any derivation or version of Snow White that I’ve come across. The story includes the few firm elements of the variable tale, but instead of yielding to them, it twists around and round.

It’s a gorgeous story and its humbleness astounds me. It is rich in the way that Valente stories are; however, the writing is from what I’ve experienced of hers before, in the books I finished and in the ones I only sampled. It’s not quirky like in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, nor is it prosaic as in Silently and Very Fast, and it’s definitely not as precise and intense as in Deathless and The Orphan’s Tale.

The writing style here is melancholic and candid; and it flies.

This novella brings about such characters, and in a few short pages. The author writes so finely, so exquisitely, that every word has something crucial to tell you. With just a few lines, Valente makes you sad and with a few less, she makes you wretched.

The worst thing in the world is having to go back to the dark you shook off.

For me, this book renders all retellings null. The story is as richly layered and the hackneyed concept has been revisited with beauteous depth and meaning. More than this, the novella also takes on issues of the past: racism, abuse, neglect, et cetra, et cetra and the most perverse of all, love.

Not romantic love, but an abusive one.

Of Snow White’s, our protagonist, love for her Mrs H, the vile step-mother and vice versa. Snow White shies away from her but in the end, she loves this woman too much even as she hates her,; and even as she takes her heart, Mrs H loves and cries for Snow White.

The first half of the story is Snow White’s narrative and just as it gets more and more hurtful, Valente turns to third person and changes the pace altogether.

There is no Prince Charming and if there is retribution to be had, it’s not clear to me as yet, why?

The ending was munificent of the author, methinks. And it also leaves you ambiguous about the identity of a monster in this tale. In the end, isn’t love the biggest of monster of all? Do we really need another skin and bones one? But perhaps, love could be the savior, too and while the evil stepmother poisons the fair maid, she’s saving her as well.

I’d urge you all to read this fantastic short story and although, it won’t hurt you not to, do you really want to miss out on this:

You can’t kiss a girl into anything.

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