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The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye Paperback – October 27, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679762221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679762225
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

"Once upon a time," A.S. Byatt's title fairy story begins, "when men and women hurtled through the air on metal wings, when they wore webbed feet and walked on the bottom of the sea, learning the speech of whales and the songs of the dolphins ... there was a woman who was largely irrelevant, and therefore happy. Her business was storytelling..." But this is no backward looking, quaint fairy time. The time is the present, and the protagonist is a sensible scholar who is given the not-at-all sensible gift of a genie. How will Gillian, an expert in fairy stories and well versed in all that can go wrong with wishes, use hers?

Distinguished British author and Booker Prize-winner A.S. Byatt creates fairy tales for adults, each a blend of the magical and the modern, and readers of Angels & Insects and Possession will recognize the role of Victorian fairy tales in her fiction. This handsome little book includes reproductions of woodcuts that evoke our childhood wonder for dragons and princesses, glass coffins and netherworldly things. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The enjoyment of fairy tales comes from new ways of telling old themes. The underlying stories are predictable?innocence is tested, a mission accomplished, a lesson learned, and an adult finally born?but the characters, adventures, and outcome vary with each telling. However, every once in a while this pattern gets bent or broken, as in Byatt's collection of five previously published stories. Each story is refreshingly different, eloquently detailing the story's setting, and each contains developed characters and dialog that make them truly enjoyable. The last and title story is the length of a small novella and is itself a collection of stories within a story. Readers who can keep up will have a fascinating adventure wandering from story to story as a modern middle-aged woman is granted three wishes by a highly personal and experienced genie. More than a play on words, this piece is a play on storytelling. Byatt has redesigned the fairy tale, breathing new life into old themes, and has done it with talent to spare. For all collections.
-?Laurel Duda, Marine Biological Lab., Woods Hole, Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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The title story is a gem.
R. Stern
As it is, however, Ms. Byatt shows a wonderful sense of language, which she uses sparingly but with great imagination and tenacity.
Murray Tong (
I read the novella twice over the last 5 years and it remains unforgettable for me.
C. B Collins Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By C. B Collins Jr. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
If I could give this book 10 stars for the novella "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye", I certainly would. I think it is one of the three finest short stories in the English language along with Isak Dineson's "Babette's Feast" and Paul Bowles'"Delicate Prey".

Two thirds of the book are devoted to this novella. There are 4 short stories that make up the other third of the book. These stories: The Glass Coffin, Gode's Story, Tale of the Eldest Princess, and Dragon's Breath, are very well constructed adult fairy tales and well worth reading.

However "The Dijinn in the Nightingale's Eye" is exceptional. In this story, Gillian, a middleaged scholar is in Istanbul for a conference of experts on myths, legends, and fairy tales. Her husband has divorced her after their two daughters had grown and left home. From here the story starts to spin story within story in rich overlays of meaning and metaphor. Gillian is an expert in wishes since she is an expert in fairy tales. The wisdom of her three wishes drives the tale. We are treated to an interpretation of one of Chaucer's tales as well as a re-telling of Gilgamesh.

I am certain that rich feminist interpretations are possible, considering the images of the role of women that change throughout the book. The characters go to St. Sophia (named after the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit) where they put their finger into a hole in a marble column that remains forever moist.

The writing was very erotic for a fairy tale. The Djinn appears nude in Gillian's hotel room, he is 20 times larger than a human, as are his genitals. Byatt then tales us of the overpowering smell of masculinity coming from this handsome giant creature.

The Djinn tells tales of his 1000 year existence in the courts of Arab kings.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
I loved this book but I really think you have to have read Byatt's Booker Prize winning novel, "Possession," in order to best understand and relate to the stories in "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye."
In "Possession," Byatt created two wonderful Victorian characters, Randolphe Ash and Christabel La Motte, both writers. Two of the fairy tales contained in this collection of Byatt originals, "The Glass Coffin," and "Gode's Story," are the work of "Ash" and "La Motte." This is not to say that a reader will not enjoy them if he or she has not read "Possession." It only means that he will not derive the maxiumum amount of enjoyment from the stories.
The other two stories, "The Story of the Eldest Princess" and "Dragons' Breath," as well as the title novella, are meditations on the art of storytelling and all are very good. "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye," in particular, is excellent. The only thing I didn't like about some of these stories, "The Story of the Eldest Princess," especially, is the thread of feminisim that runs through them. But, on further reflection, I suppose that is typical of all fairy tales, to some extent.
"The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye," tells the tale of a modern day storyteller who loves to meditate on the tales of Scheherazade. It is a rather pessimistic tale, from some standpoints, though not entirely, and the storyteller is a very clever one. She proves this cleverness when she winds up with a djinn of her very own.
Byatt's characters never seem to be black or white; instead, they are simply people with very differing views on life and the choices that should be made.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Porterfield on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've always found A.S. Byatt to be not only entertaining, but also educational. Reading her books is like attending an English lecture by a favorite professor. Suddenly you realize that three hours have gone by and you've been so engrossed that you didn't notice. A.S. Byatt is a wordsmith of the highest order. Her little volume of tales provides a feast for anyone who enjoys the vagaries of the English language. Who wouldn't want to be a "narratologist", like the main character in the title story? I love that word....wish I'd coined it myself! The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, a collection of adult fairy tales, provides a delightful juxtoposition of fantasy and reality, present and past. Things are not what they seem. But of course, if you know anything about fairy folk, you already know this to be true. It's a real treat to find fairy tales that capture the shifting, mercurial nature of "the little people." If you think you're too old for fairy tales, read a few from Byatt's book. Just remember to keep your wits about you lest the author catch you unawares, blissfully expecting a "happily ever after" that never arrives.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dylan Moore on December 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you've already read the two stories in this collection that are culled from "Possession" and wonder whether it's worth buying them a second time, don't hesitate! The book is worth buying for the brilliant title story alone.
The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye is, as always among Byatt's works, an elaborate celebration of a myriad of literary sources, many of which are fundamental to our culture. And in speaking of "our" culture here, she is, more than in any of her other works, showing us a world culture, with English, Turkish, Greek, Babylonian and other themes all presented and compared in the best tradition of The Golden Bough. However, rather than being an arid search after lost cultural history, the story makes all these legendary themes current and relevant in an up-to-the-minute context.
Gillian Perholt is another of Byatt's low-relief semi-self-portraits. Her descriptions of decay and lost youth can be rather gloomy, but here we get a wonderfully optimistic portrait which leaves the reader, finally, with a glow of well-being, and a real sympathy with the character and the author.
The book, or at least this story, although short and sweet, re-emphasises the extraordinary range and literary power of Byatt. It is full of succulant language good enough to read out loud. She must rank among the 3 or 4 best authors writing in English today.
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