(CLASSIC: from Fairy Tales, Penguin Popular Classics)
I choose ‘The Snow Queen’ because it is such a vivid story. The narration flits with energy, like swirling snow. I can feel the cold, the sharp icicles, the freezing over of Kay’s heart. There’s a strong play of good and evil throughout; the wicked demon and his shattered mirror showering the earth, the seeking of the word ‘eternity’, the persistence of Gerda in trying to find Kay, and the kindness and cruelty she meets on her journey is all jumbled and yet falls together with a thread of magic. It is a moral tale in which nature is given a voice: rivers, birds, trees, animals all speak and are respected. ‘The Snow Queen’ reigns supreme throughout over the tale, beautiful and strange, unpredictable and powerful. It is wickedly good.
(MODERN: from For Esme with Love and Squalor, Penguin)
I can’t think of a better example of writing that so economically ‘shows rather than tells.’ It’s densely packed with emotion using dialogue and vivid characterisation. The reader learns the protagonist is ‘damaged goods’ and cares for him; the tension is hitched up right until the shocking end. Great stuff!
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