Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC courtesy of St. Martin's Press
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.
Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.
It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.
Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as 'Hansel and Gretel', 'The Frog King' and 'Six Swans'. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen's father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.
Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.
I really enjoyed Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens last year and when the opportunity was offered to review The Wild Girl, I couldn’t pass up the chance! I was curious to know more about Dortchen Wild, the girl who grew up next to the Grimm family and who would ultimately steal Wilhelm Grimm’s heart. The Wild Girl is a moving tale and reminds that she did not live a fairytale life.
We have good characterization and a lot of vital characters. Our heroine is Dortchen Wild, the second youngest of six daughters; her life was in many ways preplanned. Dortchen would be the one to stay home to take care of her parents as they aged and her upbringing was strict. She’s a dreamer and longs to be with people. I liked Dortchen and admit at times I was frustrated with her because she wouldn’t take matters in her own hands. I won’t go into detail, but you’ll see what I’m talking about. Then we have her father, Johann Wild and at times, Forsyth’s characterization of him felt off. Sort of as if she tried to make him the villain and he’s quite a piece of work, but I don’t believe Forsyth really captures Johann’s spirit. Of course there’s Wilhelm Grimm (after all, what’s a story about him without him?) and I really liked him! He’s ambitious and willing to work hard for a living, but he’s also attentive. There’s a particular favorite scene of mine when he remembers Dortchen’s birthday and gifts her an item she longed for. We have several other important secondary characters that are equally likeable including the Grimm’s sister, Lotte.
Narrative is third person and the story is set in the 19th century in Hesse-Cassel, a small German kingdom. Forsyth give us rich details, but is also mindful of her setting. Hesse-Cassel is bracing for Napoleon’s imminent arrival and we get to experience the unrest, poverty, and the unknown via Dortchen and the Grimm family. The Grimm fairytales are often dark and twisted and it comes as no surprise especially when you take into account the environment these stories are being told and written in. Forsyth gives us a lot of historical facts and sometimes The Wild Girl is bogged down in historical references. While I enjoyed knowing the thoughts of the characters surrounding their reality, which I can only imagine. I particularly got a kick at how Dortchen refers to Napoleon as an Ogre which isn’t too far-fetched as one of his nicknames was the Corsican Ogre. This reference just made The Wild Girl a bit more real.
What I enjoyed about Forsyth’s The Wild Girl was getting to know more about the Grimm brothers and how they collected their stories. To be truthful, I didn’t know much about them other than what Hollywood has said about them and while they feature prominently in The Wild Girl, they really are a backdrop to the story. I liked the fact they weren’t front and center because it easily could have taken away from Dortchen’s story. What Forsyth does give us, is a good starting point for anyone wanting to know more about the Grimm brothers. She says, “Most people imagine the brothers as elderly men in medieval costume, travelling around the countryside asking for tales from old women bent over their spinning wheels, or wizened shepherds tending their flocks. The truth is that they were young men in their twenties, living at the same time as Jane Austen and Lord Byron.” It’s true. I’ve always pictured them as 16th century travelers, roaming the German countryside collecting stories. It was also really nice knowing that Dortchen provided them many of the stories that would end up making them famous.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ll enjoy Forsyth’s The Wild Girl, but at times it read more like a historical romance especially when you get into the details as to why Dortchen and Wilhelm cannot be together. I should take this time to warn you about the abuse featured in the book. I won’t go into detail, but if you’re sensitive to the subject matter, let this serve as a warning. Forsyth goes into detail in the afterword and if you’re curious, feel free to read that first if you’re on the fence. I wish Forsyth had gone into detail regarding why Mr. Wild targeted Dortchen, but I understand the reason as to why was probably limited in the sources Forsyth used. Just like real life, sometimes one child is the target while the others are left alone and we never know why.
Overall, Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl is a heartbreaking tale about a girl who ultimately dreams of her own happily ever after. If you’re a fan of the Grimm brothers, I highly recommend The Wild Girl.
I have a copy of Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl up for grabs courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books. US only & no POB’s. Any incomplete task will be disqualified (therefore don’t say you completed a section when you didn’t. 😉 ) Giveaway ends on Wednesday, July 8th at Midnight MDT (2 am EDT). Good luck!
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