I forgot how much I love Catherynne Valente’s style. I get that I could have chosen a book that was a little more in the spirit of the Read Harder task #7 but this was irresistible. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I have a weakness for fairy tale retellings. I’ll pretty much read any retelling in almost any form. I had loved Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making a few years ago too and have been meaning to read the rest of this series. Six-Gun Snow White is definitely not made for kids, though.
The writing is just as gorgeous this time around with passages like these:
I had some peculiar ideas about love. I’ll tell you what I thought on the subject back then: it’s about as much use as a barrel with no bottom. When I fed the pigs and two of them got to scrapping over an old soft onion, I thought: that’s love. Love is eating. Love is a snarling pig snout and long tusks. Love is a dress like the sun. Love is the color of blood. Love is what grown folk do to each other because the law frowns on killing.
A stepmother is like a bullet you can’t dig out. She fires true and she fires hot and she fires so quick that her metal hits your body before you even know there’s a fight on.
And then it’s distinctly feminist in lines like this:
This is what it means to be a woman in this world. Every step is a bargain with pain. Make your black deals in the black wood and decide what you’ll trade for power. For the opposite of weakness, which is not strength but hardness. I am a trap, but so is everything.
I don’t know if the feminist part was Valente’s intention, but it was fairly blatant for me. The character of Snow White that she made is unlike any I’ve ever read or seen. She gets her jet-black hair from her Native American mother and her white skin from her father. When the mother dies and the father is finally to remarry a white woman, all the prejudices that are evident in every other Western play it’s part to show why the father is not particularly concerned with what happens to Snow White, why he leaves her alone with his new wife so much, and why she treats Snow White with such shame.
Along the way several subtle details change, like the significance of the mirror, the grit that Snow White has, and the reason the stepmother needs her heart. They’re minor shifts that work in the Western setting and that I really adored. This is one of those books that I could reread forever. I had listened to the audiobook and it was a short but amazing three hours.
I borrowed Six-Gun Snow White from the library but click on the cover image if you’re looking for a place to buy it, or add to Goodreads for later.