I think of her hair as black as coal, her lips as red as blood, her skin, snow-white. As do I. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is a fairy tale, nay, a beloved fairy tale about a young, beautiful girl with hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood, and skin as white as snow. It is the story of the triumph of good over evil; of the victory of an innocent, loving and beautiful child over her clever, evil, equally beautiful step mother. But Neil Gaiman doesn't think so. Why? Because he's Neil fucking Gaiman and he can ruin any fairytale he wants.
You see, it's all about perspective. The kind and gentle (for the intents and purposes of this story only) stepmother says, "They call me wise, but I am far from wise, for all that I foresaw fragments of it, frozen moments caught in pools of water or in the cold glass of my mirror. If I were wise I would not have tried to change what I saw. If I were wise I would have killed myself before ever I encountered her, before ever I caught him."
"Wise, and a witch, or so they said, and I’d seen his face in my dreams and in reflections for all my life: sixteen years of dreaming of him before he reined his horse by the bridge that morning, and asked my name." At the ripe age of sixteen, she finds herself in love with the beautiful king of the land. Sixteen and but a child herself, she finds herself married to him, and caring (I use the word loosely here) for his five year-old daughter. Her eyes were black as coal, black as her hair; her lips were redder than blood. ... Her teeth seemed sharp, even then, in the lamplight. But of course, everything about the daughter is not as it seems, and tragedy befalls our heroine.
A landscape, unrecognisable after a snowfall; that is what she has made of my life.
Saying anything beyond this would, of course compromise the build of the story. I will say this, though; this book is not for the faint-hearted, as beautiful as it is. Neil Gaiman, you perverse weirdo. I didn't think I could ever love you more, but see, now, I do.
I'll leave you with this...metaphor. Autumn is the time of drying, of preserving, a time of picking apples, of rendering the goose fat. Winter is the time of hunger, of snow, and of death...
If another person calls this book, or any other book for that matter, the next Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, so help me god. Srsly, stahp. Because, seriously, let me tell you; similarities between Gone Girl and this book - they're both books.
I've always had a problem with perfection - I don't like it. I don't think there's anything as a perfect marriage, or the perfect life, or even something as simple as a perfect cake. I like imperfection; I like flaws. I like it when there's scope for improvement. I've always believed that perfection, or as I like to call it, the facade of perfection, is a sham, a farce. It's a facade behind which hide imperfections so horrible, so unfathomable by the human mind. This book plays on that principle. On the face of it, everything about Grace Angel's life is perfect. She has the perfect husband; handsome, smart, a crusader for the downtrodden. Always praising her, always supportive, always buying her gifts. Always there with her, for her. The proverbial knight in shining armour. She throws perfect dinner parties, cooks perfect food, dresses perfectly. Surely she must be the luckiest woman on earth. She would be, except she's married to a psychopath whose...psychopathy and passion for perfection require his wife to put on an act. The act of her life. For her life. And for the lives of others she loves.
I spend my days suspended in time, a passive lump of humanity. At least, that is what Jack sees. In reality, I am biding my time, waiting for a tiny window of opportunity to open, as it surely will—because if I don’t believe that it will, how could I carry on? How could I continue with the charade my life has become?
I remember having seen an episode of Criminal Minds a long while back, in which Hotch and Rossi are asked to evaluate whether a woman who killed her husband of 20 years is a battered woman. They conclusively prove that while her husband never laid a finger on her, the woman was a victim of domestic violence. She was severely abused by her husband, not physically, but psychologically, because much like Jack Angel, he demanded perfection. Much like Grace Angel, she had no bank account, no life insurance, no passport...not even a driver's license. In fact, the only records of her existence that they could find were the birth certificates of her children, and her marriage certificate. Of course the two cases here aren't much similar, but the reason I brought this up is to reiterate that domestic violence need not always be physical.
Grace Angel has my sympathies. Having said that, there were clues about his impending behaviour. Case in point: Jack asks to marry her only a few months after having met her; thus far, they haven't had sex, I don't even think they've hit second base. Now, of course there are people who abstain from premarital sex, but that was not the case here. When Jack finally does decide to stick her with the pointy end, here's what happens - he books a room, she goes to get comfortable, and he falls asleep. I honestly don't think that in the history of the world, that has ever happened during the "first night". Besides, the amount of planning he puts into making this sex trip happen was monumental. I never thought I'd quote Chetan Bhagat in my life, ever, but "cramped sex is better than choreographed sex". [spoiler] Also, from the very beginning, it was always Millie that Jack showed interest in, not Grace. It was always about Millie. [/spoiler] If not then, the major red flag for me would've been when he asked me to quit my job if I became his wife. Like, no, motherfucker, if it's meant to be, we'll figure it out. I don't honestly have to quit my job for that! But then again it could just be me; I'm cynical and I have major trust issues. Seriously, I'd known my now ex-boyfriend for over 11 years before we started dating, actually, he'd been one of my best friends for that period, and I still took a couple of months to trust him. I don't know, maybe love is, as they say, blind.
[spoiler] Seriously though, if he asks you to choose between him and your sister, run. Also, if he asks you for your passport when you're going to another fucking country, run. If he pushes your sister just so he can get his way, definitely run. Run before it's too late. [/spoiler]
I'm also surprised about how no one, before Esther noticed how dependent on her husband Grace was. I mean, Diane had known her for a sufficiently long period of time to notice the anomalies in the sham they called a marriage. In the period that she had known Grace, never once had she met her without the presence of her husband. Was this the bystander effect, or did Diane honestly think that Jack was good to his wife because of genuine love and affection for her, and not because he was a psychopath who liked controlling and smothering his wife because he had something much bigger planned? I liked Esther a lot. Probably because she knew that nothing and no one could be that perfect. I liked Millie, because how could I not?
[spoiler] However, I don't understand how the girl came up with such an elaborate ploy to kill Jack. [/spoiler]
I would not call this book a thriller, because I'm pretty sure the story becomes evident to everyone from the outset; it's more psychological horror than anything else. Torture isn't always physical or manifest.