Swan Lake: A Review

Swan Lake coverThis version of Swan Lake (1989) is written by Mark Helprin with fabulous color illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg. The story, of course, is very similar to the famous ballet.

An old man lives on a mountain with a young girl who, as children of her type often do, wants to venture down from the safe seclusion of their mountain to find her parents. Seeing this, the old man tells the girl a story to show her what she will encounter below: A story about a prince and a princess named Odette. As the old man relates the story of these star-crossed lovers, it becomes apparent that their fate is intimately linked with the young girl.

While parts of the story are excellent and the illustrations are truly stunning, the book on a whole left me cold. Helprin’s writing is odd. I have written at length in other areas about my strong dislike of modernizing fairy tale stories with references to things like newspapers in a story clearly meant to be set in an earlier time. It might have been funny in Shrek but in any attempt to relate a story as a true fairy tale it just fails miserably, creating a disconnect between the reader and the story.