It is Kate Bernheimer’s formidable act of sorcery to take the fairy tale — that most ancient of forms — and turn it into something so brand-new under the sun there isn’t even a name yet for what she’s doing.
The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold
As a child, Lucy dreams of talking fairies and lives contentedly in the wooded suburbs of Boston; she grows up to be a successful animator of fairy-tale films. Or does she? She claims at moments to be a witch in the woods.
Like her sisters, who appeared in Bernheimer’s first two novels (The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold), Lucy has a secret, but she is unable to fasten onto anything but brightness. Novelist Donna Tartt writes, “Lucy’s particular brand of optimism, blind to its own shadow, is very American — she is innocence holding itself apart so fastidiously that it becomes its opposite.”
This novel is a perfect end to the Gold family series, and the perfect introduction, for new readers, to Bernheimer’s enchanting body of work.
Each of Kate Bernheimer’s marvelous books is precious, strange, and impossible to anticipate — an oyster concealing a tiger’s eye or a child’s game of doll tea staged by Hieronymous Bosch. Like her sisters Merry and Ketzia, Lucy serves up a darkly delicious bottle of Drink Me.
With The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold, Kate Bernheimer brings to a close one of my favorite fictional projects of the last decade. Each slim volume of her trilogy is like one of those storybook houses that is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and within each house is a family, and within each family is a girl, and that girl just might be you. I love these books, every sharp, secret, entrancing page of them.
It is Kate Bernheimer’s formidable act of sorcery to take the fairy tale — that most ancient of forms — and turn it into something so brand-new under the sun there isn’t even a name yet for what she’s doing. Reading The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold, I felt part of myself restored to that condition of innocence I’d felt as a child, rapt, turning the pages, wondering what will happen next, reading a fairy tale. Of course, as Lucy herself proves and as Kate Bernheimer is harrowingly aware, the condition is impossible — there is no innocent magic.
Here simmers witchery: the black magic of an ominous femininity. The little match girl has cut her teeth and her smile glitters with subversion and an irresistible malevolence.
The Complete Tales of Merry Gold
Obsessive, prudish, and cold, Merry Gold lives in denial of her own condition. This seamstress — the eldest and meanest of the three Gold sisters — possesses a tarnished past and faces a bleak and lonely future. Guilty about her destructive desires and longing for innocence, her inner turmoil and explosive imagination belie a disarming honesty.
A sequel to The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold, the novel follows Merry from her suburban childhood through design school and a whirlwind of lovers, and into a desolate adulthood. Beginning with a toy seal and ending with mushrooms, this fairy tale set in modern times creeps through cruelty and violence to its inevitable end.
Reminiscent of a miniature, fragile ice sculpture, The Complete Tales of Merry Gold glistens with hard-hearted bliss. Kate Bernheimer has once again delved into the internal anguish of the Gold family to extract a magical, carefully stitched tale of strange and happy fear.
This is indeed a remarkably skillful performance, and the brilliance of Bernheimer’s achievement is spectacular. This is a novel of great power, one that will be of interest to every thoughtful reader.
Kate Bernheimer’s fiction offers a unique and delicate gift, the tempting mirage of a grace that constantly escapes. The Complete Tales of Merry Gold is an exceptional, lovely book, beautifully enigmatic, speaking a language that mysteriously evokes the unspoken.
A real gem, my favorite book of the year. A novel so simple and beautiful that you forget how hard it is to pull off simple and beautiful. Bernheimer’s second novel is a great, great success.
Kate Bernheimer is an exceptional writer of fiction.
The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold
The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold is a lavishly poetic novel that draws upon the motifs of traditional German, Russian, and Yiddish folklore and fairy stories to recount the visionary obsessions of a passionate young woman. The narrative moves freely through time and space, uniting Ketzia Gold’s early childhood with her sexual awakenings, creating a dreamscape of haunting vividness. Marked by a logical illogic and disarmingly sane madness, this haunting and innovative fable creates an emotional landscape that’s as impossible to escape as it is for young Ketzia to inhabit. Kate Bernheimer interweaves hypnotic imagery and everyday life, moving back and forth through time, piecing together the fragments of memory and imagination with an obsessive lyricism that recalls the poetic fictions of Carol Maso. Bernheimer’s story is a rich tapestry, patterned with childhood longings and the luxuriant complexity of womanhood.
The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold [is] a truly original approach to the Bildungsroman, in which Kate Bernheimer has constructed a coherent and compelling narrative by cobbling together the plot lines of a wide variety of fairy tales, and my admiration for her talent as a writer, and the dazzling use to which she puts it, is of the highest order.
These beautifully written tales wander in and out of reality, connected by their exacting language and unexpected turns of phrase.
Her book evades both the poetic froufrou that bogs down some contemporary retellings of fairy tales and the saccharine fug we associate, perhaps unfairly, with Disney animation.
Original and beautifully written.… Kate Bernheimer is an exceptional writer of fiction.
Kate Bernheimer’s fiction offers a unique and delicate gift, the tempting mirage of a grace that constantly escapes. The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold is an exceptional, lovely book, beautifully enigmatic, speaking a language that mysteriously evokes the unspoken.
The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold … moves about in an artful daze from past to present to a fantasyland …