Midsummer's Eve, the longest day and shortest night of our year, is a time of betwixt and between; when the veil that separates our world from the other is at its thinnest, and faerie slips most readily into our midsts and are wont to cause mischief and mayhem. In honour of this magical time of the year, I wanted to share a few of my favourite midsummer reads; tales of faery revels, raides and magic, tales of the fairies that are not necessarily the sweet creatures the Victorians tried to make them out to be; tales that are perfect for reading in the woods, amongst the wildflowers this Midsummer.
"The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve.
Lovers, to bed. 'Tis almost fairy time."
-William Shakespere, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Act 5, Scene 1
A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale
by Wend Froud and Terri Windling
The utterly magical visions of Wendy Froud and the poetic and evocative writings of Terri Windling collaborate to create A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale, a hugely charming picture book. The denziens of Faery are gathering together to celebrate Midsummer's Eve, but unbeknownst to them, a traitor to Queen Titania and King Oberon is in their midst, and it is up to an unlikely hero to brave the tangled forest to defeat the threat to The Old Oak Wood.
A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale is an enchanting piece of mythic fiction, superbly illustrated with beautifully staged photographs of Wendy's faery dolls in their rich woodland setting. I can imagine this book could make the perfect bedtime reading for children this Summer Solstice, but honestly, this tale would delight anyone at any age!
by Neil Gaiman
One of my favourite books, and a story of which I have lost count of how many times I have read, Stardust is the perfect fairy tale. Neil Gaiman transports you far beyond the small town of Wall, describing the undertakings of the impulsive Tristran Thorne, who promises his beloved a fallen star in exchange for her hand. The fallen star, instead, leads him to Faerie, and to a world full of peculiar characters; unpleasant nobility and their rather murderous attempts at the throne; nefarious, bloodthirsty witches, and his heart's desire.
Stardust is beautifully written and wonderfully imaginative tale, immersive, charming and funny, and reminds us that Faerie is in fact rather strange, threatening and fraught with peril.
Tithe (Book One of A Modern Faerie Tale Trilogy)
by Holly Black
Tithe by Holly Black, is a modern fairy tale; an urban fantasy which follows the story of Kaye, a fiercely independent and rather angsty teenage girl who encounters a wounded faerie knight and finds herself embroiled in the world of faerie which leads her to discovering her true self. The faerie of Holly Black's world are dangerous, beautiful and cruel, filled with warring courts, unseelie queens and lurking kelpies.
Tithe is a dark and glimmering faery story set in grimey, urban setting; a dark, complex tale with a hard-edged realism that plays out wonderfully against the fantastical aspect of the tale.
I Capture The Castle
by Dodie Smith
I first read Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle one summer holiday when I was just becoming a teenager, and it had a huge impact upon me; the story of Cassandra Mortmain, who lives with her impoverished and rather eccentric and bohemian family, in the form of a journal, recording her life living in a decaying castle, her unconventional family, her father, a writer, struggling to write the follow-up to his highly-regarded debut, and the sudden shake-up to their lives when the American heirs to the castle arrive.
Beautifully narrated, I Capture the castle is a charming story of a most spiritous protagonist, of growing up and falling in love and is full of humour and warmth.
Lady Cottington Series
by Brian Froud, Terry Jones and Ari Berk
The Lady Cottington series, consisting of Lady Conttington's Pressed Fairy Book, Fairy Album and Pressed Fairy Letters are some of the most charming and delightful books I have ever had the pleasure to read. I first received Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book as an eleven or twelve year old as a gift from my mum and I revisit them often. Illustrated by one of my absolute heroes, Brian Froud and written by the marvellous Terry Jones of Monty Python fame and renowned folklorist Ari Berk (depending upon the book), the books take the form of diary entries, notes and letters from Angelica Cottington, a rather fantastically bratty character who discovers that fairies are in fact, real and that she can see them and proceeds to 'capture' their essences by squashing them between the pages of her journal and tell of the ensuing consequences of her actions. Each page draws you deeper into the strange tale, and I love the quirky Victoriana of it all.
The series is absolutely hilarious, wonderfully irreverent and at times, rather moving and illustrated with the most exquisite drawings and paintings you can imagine.
What's your favourite Midsummer read?