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Roxanne Reviews "Medusa's Ankles"

by A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt, a seasoned Booker Prize winner (Possession: a Romance), published a new short story collection last year entitled Medusa’s Ankles: Selected Stories. Within this collection is the ‘short’ (just shy of 100 pages) story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, of which the film Three Thousand Years of Longing is based.

Byatt’s writing is super scholarly and The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, allusions include Chaucer, Freud, architect John Turtle Wood, just to name a few. Not only does she sprinkle complex icons in her stories, she also waxes poetically about social customs; misogyny in literature, women’s and society’s fixation on the female form, sexual abuse and the difficulty of having a midlife relationship.

Best of all, Byatt also inserts fun; a comedic occurrence with tennis player Boris Becker, Perholt’s love of fancy hotel rooms and a soulful scene of intimacy between Perholt and her djinn.

The premise of this particular short story is deliciously fun. Gillian Perholt, a narratologist in her 50’s, buys a beautifully designed piece of glass containing a genie or djinn who grants her three wishes. I will not spoil her choices, but reading the story was like entering a fantastical world, all while grounded in Perholt’s real world intellectual lifestyle.

Fortunately for those seeking a beach read or on a limited budget, the paperback version of Medusa's Ankles: Selected Stories comes out on September 6th.

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