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Newford 11 - The Onion Girl by Charles de…

Newford 11 - The Onion Girl (original 2001; edition 2002)

by Charles de Lint

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1,513354,889 (4.02)1 / 59
Title:Newford 11 - The Onion Girl
Authors:Charles de Lint
Info:Tor Books (2002), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library, Audiobooks, 2012
Tags:Urban Fantasy

Work details

The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint (2001)

  1. 10
    Dreams Underfoot: The Newford Collection by Charles de Lint (weeksj10)
    weeksj10: Onion Girl is an awesome story, but I would suggest you read this collection of short stories before reading the novel, because there are tons of references to Dreams Underfoot that you won't understand if you go straight to Onion Girl
  2. 10
    Widdershins by Charles de Lint (Kerian)

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Note – deals with themes of child abuse and molestation. Know this going in.

For whatever reason, this one didn’t connect with me. I don’t have any specific reasons why. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe I prefer an external plot to an internal one? It also felt like while a lot was being built up, the action never really materialized.

The Onion Girl was my first book by Charles De Lint. I’ve read short stories by him which I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve been tangentially aware that he’s got a fantasy series of stories and books set in a city called Newford and a connecting dream land, but I’ve never actually read any before now. For those interested, I think you could pick up The Onion Girl without having read any of the other books. I completely understood the plot, although at times I could tell that there were references to other characters and stories that I hadn’t read.

I picked up The Onion Girl after ditching a badly written book. I wanted some good writing, and I thought Charles De Lint would carry through. He certainly did. The best quality of The Onion Girl is the writing by far. It’s excellently written and at times gorgeous, which is probably why I liked the setting as much as I did. Towering cathedral forests? Count me in.

But just as I never connected with the book as a whole, I never connected with the characters, which is essential for me to like a book. I felt like I should have liked Jilly. She’s an artist who’s still recovering from a terrible childhood but is always determined to stay as cheerful as she can and help other people. Possibly she was just too wonderful and artsy? Some of the characters in the book did faintly remind me of a few of the wackier art teachers that I’ve had.

I would suggest The Onion Girl, even though I didn’t like it personally. I don’t think there’s any over whelming flaws with the book itself, so if it interests you and you’re looking for lyrically written, dream like urban fantasy, you should consider giving it (or presumably one of the other Newford books) a try.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Sep 27, 2014 |
Jilly Coppercorn is an irrepressible bright spirit. Her friends are so enlivened by her life, they can't imagine she would have any enemies. Then she was struck in a hit-and-run and put in the hospital. The darkness of her past caught up with her present.

This is the first story I've read that was set in Newford, a fictional Canadian city. According to a list on LibraryThing, ten stories precede this one in the series. While the relational dynamics of Jilly's posse quickly become evident, it would have been a much richer experience to have first read some of the earlier stories to better grasp the group situations.

There is much to laud in this novel. The "dreamworld" structure led to many interesting plot opportunities. It reminded me of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time world structure. Furthermore, the characters were realistic and behaved like real people. The overarching message of the story is important: dealing with your past and bringing that healing into your present.

My struggle with the book might seem a bit ironic, given my profession as a preacher. The moralistic message of the book felt too preachy. The beautiful message lost most of its subtlety and impact when the characters mused on it in detail.

All said, this was an interesting story to read. ( )
  StephenBarkley | Aug 30, 2014 |
It is 1999. Jilly was hit by a car in a hit and run and is in the hospital for rehabilitation. She has discovered that she can cross into another world, what she calls "The Dreamlands", in her dreams and wants to spend all her time there instead of the world "as it is". In a parallel story, that begins in the late 60s, Raylene is a teenager in a very dysfunctional family. When she is old enough, she leaves with her best friend, Pinky.

I like that this book brings back some of the characters from Memory and Dream. (Jilly was also a supporting character in that book.) The book also backtracks to look at Jilly's younger life. I liked every aspect of the book except what happens in the Dreamlands, which I found mostly boring, at least at first, and occasionally throughout the rest. The narrator of the audio did a really good job of Raylene's "hillbilly" accent. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 8, 2014 |
First I have to get my hands on a copy, but I love de Lint's urban fantasies.
  Susanna.Dilliott | Apr 23, 2014 |
This isn’t a fantasy novel because it takes place half on Earth and half in a Spirit World that exists as a backdrop to all of reality. This isn’t a fantasy novel because it features wolf-headed, shape-shifting original people and crow girls. No, this isn’t a fantasy novel because there are fairies and Native American Earth spirits who share their wisdom. This is a fantasy novel because most of the characters in the story give a shit about each other.

That’s right. Pretty far-fetched, huh? de Lint creates a magical world around the main character, Jilly Coppercorn, where she and her extensive collection of (let me say, roughly … ten) friends are almost unbearably sensitive and thoughtful toward each other. I’m not talking about parent-child relationships here or lovers. I’m talking about an extended group of friends who listen to each other, visit each other frequently, and deeply care about each other. Now that’s a goddamn magical world. Do I sound cynical? Wish I lived there.

For the first two-thirds of The Onion Girl, I was thoroughly enjoying the writing, and my excitement was building. de Lint seemed to be masterfully shaping the plot and building it toward an awesome collision between Jilly and Raylene, two sisters, one with inner light and the other with inner darkness. The good sister, in some ways, too good to be true. The dark sister, a violent con artist. It is perhaps because the energy deflated out of this conflict, the amazing collision failing to materialize as dramatically as I had hoped, that my doubts about the story came more into relief.

The Onion Girl’s world felt a little bit … precious. Those friendships too perfect, Jilly too perfect, too goody-two shoes. Her persona ended up feeling just too good to be true and that left an artificial flavor in my mouth. Mind you, there’s a split personality at work here, in more ways than one. On one hand, the story is about friendships. On the other hand, it about the realistically portrayed horrors of sexual abuse. And the suffering the abuse caused was not soft-pedaled. But there was such an excessive contrast between the pristine goodness of the recovered Jilly and her sister Raylene that it had the effect of making the goodness seem sappy and even prissy.

I was also taken out of the story by the humor within the narrative. Or I should say, attempted humor. After a while, I began to notice that all of the various characters’ witticisms fell flat. None of them cracked a smile on my face nor did they come across as credibly humorous enough to make another character laugh. It made me feel as though every character in The Onion Girl considered Marmaduke to be the height of comedy.

I interpreted the primary theme of the book as recovery. Recovery and related subjects—redemption and forgiveness or the lack thereof. de Lint explores how sexual abuse can drive people to commit terrible acts, both self-destructive acts and other destructive acts. And how some people grow through them and turn their lives around while others never make it through the tunnel of pain. Moderate plot spoilers (but not the ending) follow: Jilly ran away from home at the age of ten in order to escape her brother’s sexual abuse. She even became a prostitute and a drug addict. But she eventually got off the streets and became a modestly recognized artist who spends a lot of time volunteering and helping other runaways. Unfortunately, when she ran away and escaped her brother’s sexual abuse, she left her younger sister behind. Raylene went through almost identical circumstances, until she eventually stabbed her brother. Raylene went on to lead a primarily criminal life with her friend Pinky.

What was unusual and rather inspirational about this book was how it dealt with real-world issues directly within a fantasy genre. So often fantasy novels deal with fantastical issues that only tangentially or metaphorically relate to real-world matters. I also enjoyed the writing. de Lint knows how to turn a sentence and construct scenic descriptions. I could picture all the events as he described them. Just as the Onion Girl felt as though she had numerous negative issues to deal with under her sugar-coated outer layer, I found layers of negative and positive qualities to this story. I didn’t cry. I was just disappointed. ( )
  David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles de Lintprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reading, KateNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dringenberg, Mikesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windling, TerriEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They (fairy tales) make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.
--G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy
It was you, it was you, who said that dreams come true
And it was you, it was you, who said that mine would, too
And it was you who said that all I had to do was to believe
But when your ivory towers tumbled down, they tumbled down on me
--Fred Eaglesmith, from "It Was You"
It's the family you choose that counts.
--Andrew Vachss
for all of those who against all odds made the right choice
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765303817, Paperback)

In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips--Jilly, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in the city's shadows. Now, at last, de Lint tells Jilly's own story...for behind the painter's fey charm lies a dark secret and a past she's labored to forget. And that past is coming to claim her now.

"I'm the onion girl," Jilly Coppercorn says. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." She's very, very good at running. But life has just forced Jilly to stop.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:21 -0400)

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"Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life, Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where humans and older beings must work to keep the whole world turning." "He has peopled this city with extraordinary characters - people like Joseph Crazy Dog, also known as Bones, the trickster who walks in two worlds at once; Sophie, born with magic in the blood, whose boyfriend dwells in the otherworld of dreams; Angel, who runs a center for street people and lives up to her name; Geordie, creating enchantment with his fiddle; Christy, collecting stories in the streets; the Crow Girls, wild and elusive; and many, many more." "At the center of these entwined lives stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in Newford's shadows. Jilly has been a central part of the street scene since de Lint's very first stories. With her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips, she's darted in and out of the Newford tales. Now, at last, we have Jilly's own story, and it's a powerful one indeed...for behind the painter's fey charm there's a dark secret, and a past she's labored to forget. And that past is coming to claim her now, threatening all she loves." ""I'm the onion girl, " Jilly Coppercorn says. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." She's run from the past and the truth for so long. She's very good at running. But life has just forced Jilly to stop."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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