I’d firstly like to say that the cover of this book is absolutely stunning (I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the vivid colour and silhouetting makes it really stand out) and although I read an electronic copy of this book, the cover would definitely be tempting on a bookshelf.
The Wild Girl follows the life of Dortchen Wild who along with her six sisters and parents, lives next door to the Grimm family who went on to publish their world famous fairy tales. This is a reimagining of Dortchen Wild’s life and her relationship with the Grimm family, in particular her love for Wilhelm Grim set in a small German kingdom called Hesse - Cassel.
The modern versions of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales are quite watered down, sanitised versions of what were originally quite dark and brutal tales and this book follows the tumultuous and difficult lives of the two families during the Napoleonic war and its aftermath and there are many scenes in the book that deal with the brutality and desperation faced by people in wartime.
The first third of this book moved quite slowly although the writing is full of wonderful descriptions of the woodland that Dortchen loves to explore which earns her the name of “The Wild Girl” in the family. However after this, the story starts widening its scope and starts becoming a page turner as the reader is shown the endless obstacles that Dortchen and Wilhelm face when they finally realise they want to spend their lives together. Once this happened, the book became fast paced and I stayed up late to try and finish each chapter, desperate to know the outcome for the two young lovers.
This book contains many themes including the effect of war and poverty, familial ties and how sometimes in the past, a marriage born out of love wasn’t necessarily the best option in life which would spark interesting discussions for a book group so I think it would be an ideal choice for a book group read, maybe alongside a copy of the Grimm Fairy Tales?
This book blends historical fiction with beautifully lyrical descriptions and the weaving in of the fairy tales to highlight various aspects of Dortchen’s life make for a very compelling read. I shall certainly be exploring more work by this author. It was fantastic and I was sorry to leave the characters at the end of this book.