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The Wild Girl Audio CD – Unabridged, 7 July 2015
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''Like a fairytale, The Wild Girl gives us an explosive and evocative set of truths set within a deceptively simple and delicately written story.'' --(The Newtown Review of Books)
''Against an intricately-crafted tapestry of early nineteenth-century German daily life and tumultuous, tragic historical events, the story of star-crossed lovers Dortchen Wild and Wilhelm Grimm unfolds with a kind of dreamy, haunting precision.'' --(Sophie Masson, author of Moonshine and Ashes)
''Kate Forsyth is a storyteller whose books are spun out of magic and folklore. In all her stories there are princesses and wild forests, imagined terrors and real darkness, escapes to be made and arms to fall into. She is the ultimate giver of dreams, taking a fairytale and turning it around to provide even more possibilities.'' --(Readings (AU))
''I wholeheartedly recommend The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth ... her prose is effortless to read and her tales ultimately uplifting.'' --(Booklover Book Reviews (AU))
''Wonderful. Whether you love fairy tales or historical fiction or romance, there is something for you.'' --(January Magazine)
''This book captivated me from the very first scene. An historical novel with a lot of heart which will appeal to lovers of Austen and the Brontes as well as those in love with Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.'' --(John Purcell, Booktopia)
''I wholeheartedly recommend THE WILD GIRL by Kate Forsyth ... her prose is effortless to read and her tales ultimately uplifting.'' --(Booklover Book Reviews (AU))
''[A] richly imagined tale of the girl who gave the Grimm brothers some of their best stories … Ultimately, this novel inhabits the ground between Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel. It is both entertaining and serious-minded, but it has about it too that little touch of magic that makes Kate Forsyth's voice so distinctive, so uniquely Kate. An absolute pleasure to read.'' --(Kim Wilkins, author of Angel of Ruin)
''THE WILD GIRL is in turns beautiful, deeply disturbing, evocative and of course, like any good fairy story romance, features a signature happy ending.'' --(InkAshling)
''Forsyth's skill as a storyteller makes the narrative a pleasure to read through, a joy of immersive reading.'' --(The Bookonaut)
''I recommend THE WILD GIRL for fans of fairy tales and fantasy primarily, but also to historical fiction reader and those interested in the early 1800s and the way life was lived then. Lovers of bittersweet romance will also enjoy the book.'' --(Storybook Perfect)
''An absolutely beautiful and much recommended read.'' --(Stephanie Gunn)
''Kate Forsyth's 'The Wild Girl' is a remarkable tale that beautifully blends fact and fiction. It is a sweeping historical romance that will appeal to both adults and young adults, as it reminds us the power of storytelling and loving, even in the hardest of times.'' --(Alpha Reader)
''This story is not just for historical and romantic fiction readers - those who love fairy tales will also find plenty to fascinate them here. It's certainly one of my favourite reads so far this year!'' --(The Oaken Bookcase)
''Whether you love fairy tales or historical fiction or romance, there is something for you in The Wild Girl.'' --(The Great Raven)
About the Author
- Publisher : Blackstone Audio, Inc.; Unabridged edition (7 July 2015)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 1481515888
- ISBN-13 : 978-1481515887
- Best Sellers Rank: 857,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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One of six children, five sisters and a brother, Dortchen and her family live across the lane from the impoverished Grimm family and her best friend, Lotte, their only daughter. Gentle but headstrong, Dortchen is full of life and vitality and finds peace in the forest and garden where she eagerly gathers herbs and plants for the mixtures and tinctures that her father, an apothecary, mixes for the retail shop attached to their home. Her knowledge of these herbs as well as the mixing of the remedies is vast and goes a long way in assisting this selfless young girl, at the risk of angering her father, to secretly aid the Grimm family in times of hunger and sickness.
Herr Wild is a tyrant and, along with their incapable mother, a weak Laudanum-dependent woman who constantly bows under the pressures of her husband’s controlling and violent behavior, all the Wild girls find themselves slaves to their parents’ demands and maladies, having to clean, cook, mend, wash, assist in the retail shop and basically run the household with Old Marie, their only servant – and at times, the only source of motherly love in Dortchen’s dark life.
When Lotte’s two older brothers, Jakob and Wilhelm, arrive home amidst the escalating war, Dortchen, at the tender age of twelve, finds herself smitten with the much older Wilhelm.
With the events in this novel taking place over many years, we get to see Dortchen grow into a beautiful albeit physically and mentally abused young woman whose feelings for Wilhelm strengthen and become more than just a fanciful teenage crush.
Wilhelm, a literary scholar who is unable to find work amidst the turmoil of war and, in trying to keep the German customs, language and heritage alive, as well as sustain his family, begins the process of gathering and transcribing all the German folk tales handed down from generation to generation for publication into a book. When he approaches Dortchen and asks her to share the stories that she knows, he doesn’t realise at the time that her input will be tremendous.
Spending many happy hours with Wilhelm and other town folk translating their old stories for Wilhelm’s quill to record and, with her imaginative storytelling abilities, Wilhelm eventually begins to see her as a young woman and no longer merely just Lotte’s best friend.
However, as Dortchen’s older sisters marry and move out of home to create their own lives and her brother is called to serve in the war, life in the Wild household begins to change and, left behind with her youngest sister and an incapable mother, becomes subjected to life in her father’s oppressive shadow. While her feelings for Wilhelm strengthen and it becomes apparent that he feels the same way, she is all too aware of the fact that her father will never approve of any union between the two of them, not only because of Wilhelm’s penurious circumstances, but because of his intense dislike for the Grimm family.
As the wages of war begin to show their true colours, so, too, does Herr Wild, who deteriorates into a bluebeard of that time and, whilst he doesn’t physically murder, this supposedly pious man stealthily begins to smother Dortchen’s beautiful nature with acts of abuse and humiliation. Forbidding her to have anything to do with Wilhelm and, knowing that they can’t be seen together, secret trysts between the two become the only opportunities open to Dortchen to tell Wilhelm her stories and, there are times when, through tales such as “All Kinds of Fur” (the origins of which are deeply incestuous) Dortchen tries to convey her misery and oppression to Wilhelm - but the true meaning is lost on him.
Nonetheless, it’s not all dark and, as with all fairytales, there is a happy ending in which we see both Dortchen and Wilhelm finally overcome the adversity to which they have been subjected all their life.
Let me start off by saying that I absolutely loved this book and, while I am extremely embarrassed to admit that it is the first novel I have read by Kate Forsyth, it certainly won’t be my last! Although I was initially overwhelmed at the sheer length of it, Ms Forsyth’s deft hand, rich imaginings and storytelling abilities immediately sucked me into a world where I became so emotionally invested in the plight of Dortchen that there were many times when the awful things that she suffered at the hands of her cold and abusive father, who took religious teachings just one step too far, had me wanting to climb into the book and give him a dose of something lethal from his own apothecary supplies!
For Wilhelm, I could feel only sadness at the poverty that he and his family lived in, and, even though he was quite sickly, I was most in awe of the strength and determination he showed in trying to free himself from the clutches of his dire circumstances. Of course, prior to reading this story, I had never thought of the Brothers Grimm as youthful with romantic conquests in their lives, having always pictured them as decrepit old men sitting at their antique secretaires transcribing their stories into massive tomes by candlelight, never once giving thought to their circumstances nor that these works were done in the midst of the ravages of war, so thanks should surely go to Ms Forsyth for educating me.
Like many others out there I, too, was brought up with the tales of the Brothers Grimm and, whilst I was introduced as a child to Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin (to name a few), Kate Forsyth reveals through this novel that there are so many more which found their way into the world albeit with far grimmer beginnings. Who knew that the original works were so gruesome!
I also didn’t’ realise the depth of destruction that the Napoleonic wars left in their wake and, while I wish I had listened more intently to my school history lessons about Napoleon, Kate Forsyth provided me with an illuminating historical backdrop and, through her extensive research, has done a brilliant job in exploring the little known historical facts about Dortchen Wild’s life and blending it with fiction.
Ultimately an enduring love story spanning almost two decades, Ms Forsyth does weave some terribly dark and disturbing scenes into this novel and, while the subject matter is dealt with skillfully and sensitively, leaving it to the reader’s imagination rather than plying us with a graphically articulated narrative, we are given a glimpse into Dortchen and Wilhelm’s lives which, long after the final page was turned, profoundly impacted this reviewer’s thoughts.
Rich and imaginative, Kate Forsyth vividly evokes the scenery, the depth of human emotion, the violence of war and some fascinating herb lore as her characters attempt to overcome life’s adversities, and I do believe that she has gifted us with a memorable literary exploration of the life of a girl who lived her own dark fairytale!
The novel begins in December 1814: Napoleon is in exile, and Dortchen Wild’s father has died. Dortchen has good reason to dance for joy. Shortly after, Wilhelm Grimm, whom she first met in 1805 when she was aged twelve, re-enters her life. Dare they hope for a life together? Her parents have disapproved of the impoverished Wilhelm.
This is both a love story and an account of how the brothers Grimm discovered their famous fairy tales. In 1806, Hesse-Cassel was invaded by the French and Dortchen met with Wilhelm in secret to tell him the stories she knows. The brothers Grimm collected these old stories, wanting to save them from the domination of French culture.
‘No story was just a story, though. It was a suitcase stuffed with secrets.’
Dortchen is trapped at home with her parents as one by one her sisters marry and move away. Her father is cruel and abusive, and Dortchen longs to escape. Even after her father dies, she and Wilhelm are unable to marry: he is too poor to support himself, let alone a wife. But, despite setbacks, and not being acknowledged as a source of some of the stories, Dortchen eventually finds her own happy ending. After Napoleon is finally overthrown, and once the fairy tale collection becomes successful, Dortchen and Wilhelm are finally able to marry. They then live, happily ever after, with Wilhelm’s elder brother Jakob.
‘To see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.’ (Novalis)
I enjoyed this novel and the way the story is presented. Much of the story is told through conversation, which brings the people and the times to life. The collection of the fairy tales specifically referred to in the novel serves to underline some aspects of the lives of the Wild sisters. Truth and myth reinforce each other. Until I read this novel, I’d not given a lot of thought to either the lives of the brothers Grimm, or how they collected their stories. And I’d never heard of Dortchen Wild.
‘Stories are important too,’ Dortchen said. ‘Stories help make sense of things. They make you believe you can do things.’
Top reviews from other countries
It is the very well researched tale of The Brothers Grimm and their neighbours, and concentrates on the relationship and romance between Wilhelm Grimm and the girl next door,who told him many of the tales which were recorded in his books.
The book finds a beautiful balance between fact and imagination.I found myself absorbed in the history and could see the houses, streets and people so clearly, I felt like I was actually there.I could almost smell the food cooking over the fire!
This isn't a flowery tale for the feint hearted.It is gritty and sad in places and there are descriptions of sexual abuse which are quite harrowing, though sensitively portrayed.
Kate Forsyth has obviously spent a long time researching her characters and has included all the history of the time in a very palatable way.She is a gifted story teller who has told the story of other gifted story tellers in a beautiful way.Thank goodness for The Brothers Grimm and thank goodness for Kate Forsyth.
danger and poverty of living in Germany through the Napoleonic wars. I loved the evocation of the life of the Grimm family and the family of Dortchen Wild,
who was the source of many of the folk tales. I had always wanted to know more about this time period, on the cusp of the Romantic movement, and found it
fascinatingly and believably evoked.
This is also a very clever book, revealing how the psychology of old legends and fairy tales can sometimes speak to and heal the lives of those who
tell them. The author has a very interesting take on how the tales that Dortchen told to Wilhlem Grimm were a vehicle for communicating a dark secret
that was hard to convey in any other way. This is based on the author's research and I found it very convincing.
This is a wonderful book, especially at winter time and for reading on snowy nights by the fireside. It also contains a satisfying slice of pre-
Highly recommend. I am now reading Bitter Greens and I hope that these books will be the first of many historical novels by Kate Forsyth.
I'd recently read Forsyth's earlier book for adults, Bitter Greens , a wonderfully woven story of the real woman at the court of Louis 1Vth, the Sun King, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, who was a story teller and writer, and how her life underlined the inner story of the fairy/folk tale of Rapunzel, one of the stories which she narrated. In that book, Forsyth does a brilliant juggling act with three voices, the real Charlotte Rose, the character within the Rapunzel story, and an ancient sister in a convent who explains a certain mystery around the Rapunzel story's real provenance.
In this later book, there is one central narrator told in the third person voice, that of Dortchen Wild, `The Wild Girl' (double meanings inherent). Set in the early part of the nineteenth century, the story is one of real people and real history, interspersed with versions of the folk tales the Grimm Brothers collected. However, where research yields certain facts, there are always holes in the why of things, and it is this which lies at the heart of Forsyth's book, both its strength, in lifting dry facts into something which makes sense in the lives of real people, and its weakness - sometimes suppositions may be delivered as a kind of dark secret, a skeleton in a cupboard; one which may in fact be either bare, or hold a different skeleton entirely.
The facts are these : the Grimm Brothers were very poor, and their family was large - mainly brothers, with one sister. This sister was the playmate of one of the daughters of a neighbouring large family - predominantly daughters, of a higher financial strata - the Wild father was a herbalist. One of the daughters, Dortchen, 7 years younger than Wilhem Grimm, was the source of many of those stories. Wilhelm and Dortchen wished to marry. The Wild paterfamilias was a harsh father and the poverty of the Grimm's meant permission was denied. Indeed, the Wild father was overbearing, cruel, and incredibly controlling, by all accounts. Neither Dortchen nor Wilhelm married others, though their regard for each other was noted.
The historical background of this was primarily taking place as Bonaparte was building France an Empire, and Europe - whether in countries already occupied by France, or fighting against occupation - was at war, and its citizens often near starvation to fund that war.
When the Wild father dies, the obstacle to Dortchen and William marrying was removed, yet there was a 10 year wait, filled with unhappiness for both, before that marriage happened, and it seemed to be in the end to have been a happy marriage, which both desired. It is Forsyth's `invention, or perhaps her intuition - true or false - which provides the answers to that 10 year wait.
I had a certain unease, which I get frequently, when the lives of real people are used for invention - specifically when what is invented may be blackwash. It may be true - but then again, it may not be. It's a kind of ethical dilemma really, possibly calumny against a long dead person whom no one has probably heard of (except research scholars)
My second slight disappointment was with the extreme, almost undecorated simplicity of the story-telling and language in which it is told. Forsyth is clear and plain, perhaps too clear, too plain - in some ways it is of course the perfect voice for the telling of a fairy tale, as this is the strength of the fairy tale, its language is unvarnished, without much in the way of descriptive embellishment. But fairy tales are short. This is a novel of over 500 pages, and I began to long for the dreadful waiting for Dortchen and Wilhelm to be condensed, for the story to be nipped and tucked and condensed - or, alternatively the language in which it was being told to have more variation and richness of tone
It is certainly a more than okay book, and the weaving of some of the stories being collected, and the real events in the lives of the two families, not to mention an excellent evocation of time, place and historical detail, are all strengths, but it needed more sparkle, I think, in the telling. True, there wasn't, often, much to sparkle at - unlike her earlier book, where both Charlotte-Rose and the ancient nun were both women of wit and vivacity - the central characters in this book are all fairly ground down and a little too dour to allow for much light and colour
3 ½ stars, rounded up
I enjoyed 'The Wild Girl' just as much, the character of Dortchen is brilliant to read, there is so much to like about her, she's responsible, spirited, caring, stubborn and tells wonderful stories which she shares with Wilhelm Grimm.
The story intertwines history that Dortchen and her family witness and suffer and the joys of storytelling. I felt they worked well together because during the times of darkness and unrest the stories that were shared helped the people around them. Dortchen's relationship with her father is complicated and as the story progresses it becomes more complicated, it leaps off the page as you read, I could not help but hate her father, there was rare moments of how caring he could be but they were few and far between.
Dortchen and Wilhelm's relationship was lovely to read and so much keeps them apart, I have never wanted characters in a book to have a happy ending as much as I wanted Dortchen and Wilhelm to have theirs.
After I finished 'The Wild Girl' I read about Wihelm and Dortchen, they had a good life together which make this story even more special.
I am looking forward to reading more books by Kate Forsyth.