Five captivating reads for grown-ups who love fairy tales

We recommend five terrific works of fiction for grown-up lovers of the magic and other-worldliness of fairy tales. Find more suggestions by browsing the collections below.


Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

Bettina Scott lives a tidy, quiet life in Runagate, tending to her delicate mother and their well-kept garden after her father and brothers disappear. Then a note arrives that sends Bettina into the scrublands beyond, searching for answers about what really happened to this town, and to her family. For this is a land where superstitions hunt and folk tales dream - and power is there for the taking, for those willing to look. Flyaway is Australian Gothic at its most bewitching best, and heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in Australian literarure.


The Island Child by Molly Aitken

20 years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and sheep’s wool, where the only book was the Bible and girls stayed in their homes until mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never come back. Yet, as an adult, she breaks this promise and returns, desperate to find a second chance. Rich, haunting and rooted in Irish folklore, The Island Child is a spellbinding debut novel that beautifully depicts the healing power of stories.


Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl. Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy. But there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are… Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories, Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe. Our reviewer writes: ‘ Gingerbread has all the scope and sense of place you might expect from a Zadie Smith novel combined with the surrealism of a Murakami, and is strung together with stunning prose.’


Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan

Smart Ovens for Lonely People is a wildly inventive and beguiling collection of stories, many of which read like fairy tales for a plugged-in smart device generation. In the titular story, a cat-shaped oven tells a depressed woman she doesn’t have to be sorry anymore, and look out for a truly stand-out tale featuring mermaids. Our digital marketing manager Jackie Tang picked this book as one of her best of the year and likened it to the works of Carmen Maria Machado, Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link and even Shaun Tan.


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a strange book hidden in the library stacks. As he turns the pages, he reads something unnerving – a story from his own childhood. This discovery leads Zachary to a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. The Starless Sea is Erin Morgenstern’s follow-up to her bestselling and equally enchanting The Night Circus, and our reviewer calls it “an ode to reading, to stories, to books, to memory, to secrets, missed opportunities, second chances, fate, love, and hope”.

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Kathleen Jennings

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