- File Size: 2559 KB
- Print Length: 242 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (May 14, 2013)
- Publication Date: May 14, 2013
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00A9ET4TU
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,577,492 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Random House LLC
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Yellowcake Kindle Edition
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“Haunting, gorgeous, and sometimes painful, Lanagan’s stories are unlike anything else in fantasy literature.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2013:
"Lanagan unravels familiar myths and fairy tales, weaving them into unique, sharply resonant forms in this characteristically stunning collection...Familiar roots and accessible themes make this strong collection a good introduction to Lanagan’s mind-bending work."
Booklist, February 15, 2013:
"Lanagan's literary chops are nearly unrivaled in YA lit, and any release from her will draw excitement, scrutiny, and awards consideration."
The Horn Book, May/June 2013:
"These imaginative works demand much of their readers, occasionally providing catharsis and unfailingly provoking thought and discussion."
School Library Journal, April 2013:
"This is meaty fare, layered with meaning and thick with a richness of imagination. Yellowcake is as much about the telling as it is about the tales."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June 2013:
"The familiarity of the stories and themes provide an access point to Lanagan’s innovative sentence structure and dense, eloquent prose, while the emotional rawness of the tales, focusing intensely on loss and disillusionment, is powerful enough to grab even less sophisticated readers. The opening dialogues of each story serve as both an invitation and a disorientation, and by the end of the collection, readers will have the satisfying feeling that they have just assembled a strange and wondrous puzzle."
"Exquisite. Lanagan's prose is challenging and rewarding in equal measure, creating resonances that most writers can only dream of; and her characters and situations seethe with emotional power."
Library Media Connection:
"Lanagan, master of the strange, disturbing, and familiar has again written a collection of stories which will entertain, enthrall, and challenge readers."
--This text refers to the paperback edition.
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Since this collection is designated as Young Adult I kept trying to imagine how they would read to the designated over twelve audience. I found that challenging. Young readers may not be familiar with the genesis of the tales yet that might be an advantage since they'd have an open mind with few preconceptions however there were unsettling concepts. I know most teens have seen more scary movies than us adults but those aren't usually psychologically complicated. These stories were and that's the problem.
"Yellow Cake' is well written and psychologically insightful and most of them have a moral lesson BUT they are brutal, some of them extremely so. They include rape, death, murder, casual violence, war, hunger, and drugs. It bothers to think of Young Adults reading them but definitely anyone under 18 should be discouraged away from them. I'm in my mid 50's and was deeply disturbed by the concepts which, of course, also speak to their power. My feeling is that there's enough horror all around us without reading fiction like this. Ironically I might have been less negative if Lanagan was not such an astounding writer.
I felt that the collection, as a whole, lacked cohesiveness. The only element that I saw recurring was that several stories were based on fairy tales or religious folklore. For example, “Night of the Firstlings” tells the story of the Passover as it might have appeared to one of children of the Israelites, while “The Golden Shroud” gives a rather happier ending to the characters of “Rapunzel”. But not every tale has a literary precedent, so it doesn’t serve as a true unifying element.
This is my first experience with Margo Lanagan. She has a very vague, dreamy style of writing that implies much but explains little. It’s often difficult to pinpoint anything with certainty. In some stories, like “Catastrophic Destruction”, it infuses an old narrative with new magic - but then again, if you aren’t familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Tinderbox” then I’m not sure the story will make sense, or be strong enough to stand on its own. The tales are often disjointed or jumbled. A Booklist review describes the text as “tricksy prose [that] feels as if it’s been translated into an alien tongue and back again”, and I think that’s a fairly accurate. I was often left wanting more, but not in a good way.
As with all short story anthologies, there are some strong stories that I would eagerly read again and others that I could barely finish. This is worth picking up for Lanagan’s takes on Rapunzel and “Into the Clouds on High”, a touching story about a boy whose mother keeps trying to float away into the sky, but you might want to find the book in a library first to see if the author’s labored telling will be enjoyable or a chore.
Since others have provided capsule summaries of the stories, I won't do so here. (Read Leah's review, though, for excellent one-line summaries.) I'll simply say that Lanagan is, for me at least, an acquired taste, but that taste is acquired quickly and is worth reading. Initially, I was impressed by the author's skill in telling the tales but not so much by the stories themselves. And then I came to "The Golden Shroud." I began not knowing what the story was about and then, about a quarter of the way through, realized it's a retelling of Rapunzel. (Technically, it's not a retelling so much as a sequel or alternate version.) At last! Solid ground. But this story was my least favorite of the bunch, and from then on, I found myself savoring the oddity of the stories.
Each of the worlds in Lanagan's stories seems to have an internal logic. This logic is not spelled out. Rather, one divines it through the reading, and that process is part of the joy of these stories. In my favorite, "An Honest Day's Work," it is never entirely clear what exactly the characters are harvesting or, for that matter, who the characters are precisely. Still, there is a potent sense of emotions running through the story, and in the end, I think the story works equally well as an allegory for any number of real-world practices.
That sense of allegory, whether intended or not, is what makes this collection so rewarding. Even if, for example, nobody is in danger of having his mother simply float away one day, it does not take much imagination to extend the literal interpretation to a metaphorical tale of the fragility of human relationships.
I heartily recommend "Yellowcake" for anyone who values good writing and astonishing imagination.