Book Review: The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am always a lover of fairytale/folktale retellings, especially when the author has decided to focus on the darker, perhaps hidden aspects of the tale. This is how Mallory Ortberg has retold tales in The Merry Spinster. What is really interesting is how Ortberg has chosen to portray human behavior in the characters of these tales, which I find to be the most uneasy and horrifying aspect.

The tales he has written include those inspired by the well-known tales such as Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and various other tales from the Grimms et al. However, Ortberg has included other well-known stories that do not necessarily fall under the cannon of fairytales we all know, or are else rather obscure. My favorite of these that he has included under this category is The Daemon Lover, which I came to love due to Shirley Jackson, to whom Ortberg has a similar writing style, thereby making me personally love The Merry Spinster all the more. Others include The Velveteen Rabbit, Frog and Toad, and various biblical references. The fact that Ortberg has chosen these other stories instead of just the usual cannon of fairytales makes him quite unique as an author and a storyteller, and I would love to see what other stories he can make into tales of horror.

The only story that really did not meet my expectations was “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad”, based on The Wind in the Willows. I felt like the story could be longer, with a bit more explanation, but that simply could mean that this particular tale is not for me. Nonetheless I found it interesting and not out of sync with the rest of the book.

I recommend this collection of stories to anyone who likes a good, twisted fairytale, and to those who, like me, are big fans of Shirley Jackson’s tales of everyday horror.

View all my reviews