Shelf Control #2: Grimm’s Last Fairytale by Haydn Middleton

Shelf Control is a weekly book meme @ Bookshelf Fantasies in which we write about one book that we want to read and already own. Read our hostess Lisa’s choice for this week over here.

My choice for this week:

In September 1863, Jacob Grimm travels through rural western Germany with his devoted niece, Auguste, who longs to learn at last the truth about her family. They are accompanied by Kummel, their new and enigmatic manservant. As relations between the three reach a crisis point, vivid flashbacks tell of Jacob’s traumas and heartbreaks. Old now, Jacob resists Auguste’s attempts to make him take stock of his life, but memories that are repressed have a tendency to reappear in other places, and in other guises.

Throughout Jacob’s travels, he is reminded of the folktales he and his brother Wilhelm collected in their Tales for the Young and Old. Most notable is the feverish fairytale of “Sleeping Beauty,” which holds a shattered mirror to a life, a country, and a history. The version recounted here is an enchanting tale that goes beyond the marriage of the Prince and Princess, to reveal the surprising truth behind the evil.

In his compelling historical novel, Haydn Middleton re-creates the life story of literature’s most famous brothers. It is a history that could almost be a fairytale itself, with its fabulous changes of fortune, tests of duty and honor, arrogant princes, lost loves, and twisted family relationships-all unfolding in a world of dark forests and even darker politics. [Goodreads]

I love reinterpretations of texts and know next to nothing about the Grimm brothers except that they are authors of world-famous fairytales, so picked up this book with a lot of enthusiasm from a second-hand book dealer uncle. Now like many other second-hand bookshops, it too is gone. I don’t know what has happened to uncle… and the book remains unread on my shelves.


What do you think of reinterpretations? Have you read this book? Any other reinterpretation that you’d like to recommend?


17 thoughts on “Shelf Control #2: Grimm’s Last Fairytale by Haydn Middleton

  1. Thanks for that recommendation, Mathew. I’ll see whether I can get a copy of it. Wow! How was it living over there and was this before or after the unification?


    1. IMid-60’s, Neeru. I went back after finishing university in ’68 or ’69 and got harrassed by the Vopos in East Berlin one day. I wrote about it afterwords. Not sure where that piece is now, but if I can find it I’ll send you a link.


        1. That must have been some experience, Mathew. Thanks for the link, I’ll have a look. Though I have never been to Germany, I was one of the happiest persons around when the wall fell.


          1. Matt, that link doesn’t work but going over to your blog, I was able to read it. What a terrifying experience.

            Here’s the link:


            1. That’s odd, Neeru. I just now clicked on the “BerlinTerror” hotlink after the “Aha!” in my first comment, and it worked, altho it doesn’t look like a the text. I used this coding for it: Creates a hyperlink:


                1. Very strange. Evidently WordPress won’t print the coding, altho when I used it on “Berlin Terror” it turned the two words into a hyperlink. If you would like the coding (it’s very brief) for future use, send me you emai8 addy, and I’ll send it to you.


  2. OHH – What is the reinterpretation of Cinderella?

    Are reinterpretations the same as a retelling? The example I’m thinking of is Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl which is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.


    1. She is one manipulative person and all that suffering, cinders and all is just one big pretense. The Prince is in love with one of the step-d-sisters. It was written so well that I have never been able to see her in a good light after and have never forgotten one of the most chilling lines ever uttered: “The shoe is on the other foot.” If only I could remember the author!

      I am sure there must be differences between retelling and reinterpretation but can’t say I can point out the fine distinctions. My Bad 😛


    1. The more comments, the better Matt. 😉

      That link after Aha! takes us to your blog which says: This page does not exist. Anyway I was able to read your piece.

      This WordPress/ Blogger feud ought to have been resolved by now. What do these conglomerates want?


      1. I just now tried it again, and I got the same result as you. I think what happened was that I did some editing on it and, because Blogger has it’s own idiosyncracies, it registered the changed version as a new version. Sorry for the mixup, but now I’ve learned something new!


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