Review – Poison

Cover of Poison by Sarah PinboroughPoison, Sarah Pinborough

This is a difficult book to decide about, for me. I like the narration, the way it’s written; it’s deceptively simply written, with that fairytale like tone, and yet there’s a lot of rewriting going on. It’s not just the sexual content, but also the ambivalent attitude to the same. There’s casual sex, sex for power, shameful sex… You’d think it would be sex positive, with the powerful figures of Snow White and Lilith, but it really isn’t; sex is a thing that people seem to use to control each other, it’s just taking of power.

I’m not a big fan of all that, though I’m thinking that probably wasn’t what the author wanted a reader to take away from the story. But the ambivalence isn’t just about the portrayal of sex: it’s also about Lilith, the wicked stepmother. She’s young, she used to laugh, and Snow wants to get through to her… but she’s transforming into something wicked. There’s a commentary there on power and powerlessness, too. Sometimes it seems like we’re meant to pity Lilith, to believe she’s doing things wrong but wishing she could get them right. Sometimes she just seems hateful. The line isn’t walked delicately enough to keep both sides in sight.

There’s also all the allusions to other stories — Aladdin, Hansel and Gretel — which felt too obtrusive to be clever, to me.

I’m planning to read Charm, and maybe Beauty as well, and that might help me figure out what to think.

Rating: 3/5

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