Review

Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls

by Danielle Wood

The
gothic, black-and-white, polka-dotted cover of Danielle Wood's new
collection of interlocking short stories is, perhaps, the first
clue that Rosie Little, the narrator and heroine of ROSIE LITTLE'S
CAUTIONARY TALES FOR GIRLS, is not your ordinary Little Red Riding
Hood. Wearing cherry red Doc Marten boots instead of dainty
slippers, Rosie Little navigates her own deep, dark woods of
success, romance and destiny by following a few ground rules and
relying on help from the Shoe Goddess and maybe even a fairy
godmother of her own.

Although Rosie's tales are "for girls," this is by no means a
children's book. As Rosie herself notes, "these are tales for girls
who have boots as stout as their hearts, and who are prepared to
firmly lace them up (boots and hearts both) and step out into the
wilds in search of what they desire." And desire --- fulfilled or
unfulfilled --- is indeed at the heart of many of these stories.
From Rosie's thoroughly unsatisfactory deflowering that opens the
book, to Paula's disastrous proposal in "The Depthlessness of
Soup," to a bridezilla's ludicrously misguided conception of
herself in "Vision in White," unrealistic desires and expectations
have a way of backfiring on those who harbor them.

Two of the stories included here --- "Elephantiasis" and "The True
Daughter" --- have been featured in Best Australian
Stories
anthologies, and they do represent the strongest, most
conventionally appealing tales in this collection. But Wood
effectively integrates these stories into the other chapters,
which, from "Virginity" to "Destiny," seem to trace the life cycle
of the modern woman, in all its complexity, frustration and even
(sometimes) joy.

Rosie herself is a fleeting presence in the book --- the
protagonist of a handful of stories, she also drops in on any
number of other tales, either as a minor character or as the
provider of delightfully snarky sidebars entitled "On Writing About
Noses" or "On Pubic Hairstyling." Attempting to make sense of her
world, Rosie lives by a set of guidelines --- no use of the word
"eclectic," for example, and no dating men named "Wolf" --- that
impose order on the chaotic modern landscape. The stories deal with
big issues --- domestic violence, abortion --- but do so with a
kind of magical realism that gives these well-trod topics both more
weight and a new twist or two.

In the end, ROSIE LITTLE'S CAUTIONARY TALES FOR GIRLS is a
delightful, witty sendup of both classic fairy tales and modern
chick-lit romances. Wood adroitly plays with reader expectations
and literary conventions, treating "girls" to a smart, sassy
selection of stories that understands adult women perfectly.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 23, 2011

Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls
by Danielle Wood

  • Publication Date: July 13, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
  • ISBN-10: 1596922524
  • ISBN-13: 9781596922525