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The Storyteller's Daughter by Maria Goodin
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The Storyteller's Daughter (edition 2012)

by Maria Goodin

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Member:shelleyraec
Title:The Storyteller's Daughter
Authors:Maria Goodin
Info:Crows Nest, N.S.W. : ALLEN & UNWIN, 2012.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The storyteller's daughter by Maria Goodin

Recently added byissy05, birdsam0610, shelleyraec
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The Storyteller’s Daughter is one of those books that are known by a number of different names, depending on the location (Nutmeg in the UK, From the Kitchen of Half Truth is the US). Why? I’m not sure, because all of these titles aptly describe the book. Meg May, is the storyteller’s daughter and I don’t mean in the Jodi Picoult Storyteller way – Mrs May (Valerie) is a teller of wild, fantastical stories involving food, baking and cooking. Hence, the kitchen of half-truth is definitely true of the book. Nutmeg relates to Meg, but doesn’t take into account what Meg is like. Upon learning that her mother’s tales are fiction, not fact (such as a scar being from the crab claw of a crab cake); the young Meg rejects fantasy and fairy tales for the cold reproducible truth of science. She carries this on to adulthood, where she completes a science degree and is about to start her PhD when she returns home to nurse her dying mother.

Valerie’s stories are still as fanciful as ever, but Meg is determined to know the truth about her father. Valerie won’t budge, so Meg starts to do detective work of her own. Her boyfriend, the cold and clinical Mark, encourages her to find out the truth, ignoring Meg’s feelings of doubt and disloyalty to her mother. With the flimsiest of clues, Meg starts out on the journey, while trying to ignore her mother’s new gardener and that perhaps a bit a fiction is necessary in life.

I did enjoy this book, as the stories that Valerie tells of Meg’s birth and various scrapes with running runner beans and other foods are very creative. It did start to wear on me (as it did Meg) that Valerie was eternally stubborn on her ‘half-truths’, so I was pleased when the action turned to the hunt for Meg’s father. The romantic action was pretty predictable (but still fun to read), but Mark’s character just turned my stomach. He was a pompous stuffed shirt, who didn’t demonstrate any real affection for Meg as herself, only for her scientific achievements. It was frustrating to read as Meg believed this was love and meekly accepted his orders.

The book became much darker in the second half, as the truths about Meg’s father and early life begin to be revealed. At times, it was dark enough for me to wish that Valerie would jump in with an anecdote about Meg being blown into space after a popcorn accident or something just as an absurd. While it wasn’t comfortable at times, I think the difference between truth and half-truth was necessary to illustrate what had happened with Valerie. The strengthening of the bond between Meg and Valerie was beautifully done, piece by piece as Meg finds out more – but will she be too late?

This novel conveys a range of emotions – at various times I laughed, cried and shook my head in disgust at what people do to others. Goodin weaves so many aspects into this book that it would be good for book clubs – the more I think about this, the more I appreciate its complexity and clever interweaving of life, love, family and the truth.

Thank you to Allen and Unwin and The Reading Room for the ARC.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Apr 27, 2013 |
The Storyteller’s Daughter (first published as Nutmeg in the UK, and to be published in the US as From the Kitchen of Half Truth) by debut author Maria Goodin is a a poignant story of a relationship between a mother who has taken refuge in fantasy and a daughter who wants only the facts.

Meg’s mother has told her daughter whimsical stories of her birth and early childhood, stories Meg had no reason to doubt since she has no memory of anything that happened before her fifth birthday. But at eight years old Meg May’s belief in her eccentric mother’s tales of runaway runner beans, neighing horseradish and nipping crab cakes was shattered by the taunts of her peers. Now twenty-one, with her mother, Valerie, dying from a terminal illness, Meg has one last summer to discover the truth about her past.

The Storyteller’s Daughter can not really be labeled as magical realism but it has a sense of whimsy that creates that impression. The imaginative tales stemming from Valerie’s obsession with food and cooking are absolutely charming, from the mint slice that bestows super speed to the hotdogs that bark and the toad in the hole that refuses to stay put. Apparently initially developed from an award winning short story, there are some flaws to be found, with holes in the plot, and sometimes weak characterisation yet the writing has a delightful rhythm and lovely imagery.

Meg’s rejection of her mother’s make believe world has driven her to excel in science, finding comfort in logic and order. In returning home to care for her sick mother Meg is forced to confront her mother’s delusions in her quest for the truth of her early childhood. Humorless and patronising, Meg is not immediately likeable, though she is sympathetic as it’s easy to understand her frustration with her mother’s evasion of the truth.

Valerie’s eccentric behaviour is both endearing and quite maddening. She is an attentive, loving and supportive mother but her denial of reality is quite absurd. It is obvious however that beneath the fantastical stories Meg’s mother has concocted lies a dark secret, and in fact we eventually learn she is hiding some horrifying truths. Truths that Meg finds that she regrets insisting on knowing when they reveal painful memories.

The Storyteller’s Daughter is an enchanting tale of love, loss, and the conflict between what the head knows and what the heart wants. It is quirky and unusual but altogether I thought it moving, tender and funny. ( )
  shelleyraec | Dec 6, 2012 |
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Meg is growing up in a world of food filled fantasy; where her first tooth was so sharp her mother used her as a can opener, and eating too many apples once left her spitting pips. Then, age five, she is humiliated in front of the other children at school and turns her back on the world of fiction, deciding to let logic rule her everyday thoughts and deeds. Years later, Meg's mother falls ill, and as she struggles to deal with the situation in an orderly fashion, her mother remains cocooned in her obsession with cookery, refusing to face up to her illness. Slowly, Meg uncovers the truth about her childhood and is now faced with a humbling decision: to live in a cold harsh reality, or envelop herself in a wonderful world of make-believe.… (more)

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