Prather’s Pick: A ‘Fairy Tale’ memoir
This week’s book for adult readers is a memoir, but the author writes that she used her diary as a guide and “arranged certain facts to entertain.” So the book might also be considered a graphic novel. “The Fairy Tale Girl” was written by Susan Branch.
The book is part one of a two-book series, the second part being “Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.” Both books are a prequel to “A Fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English Countryside.” All of this is important because this week’s book, about Susan’s earlier life, is the most recent and the publication date may be confusing if you try to find it. Otherwise, all three books stand on their own and are delightful. “Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams” was reviewed in this column awhile back.
What makes all three books stand out is that Susan incredibly hand printed and hand illustrated all of them. Imagine hand printing each page of a book so that it was camera ready for publication! The print on each of the pages is interspersed with quotes from famous people, lines from songs, watercolor drawings (some quite small), photographs, and recipes.
The text of the book begins when Susan on March 4, 1982, when she was on a TWA flight to Boston. Susan is running away from a heartbreaking breakup with her husband Cliff. She’s leaving behind her family, friends (especially girlfriend Diana), and her beloved cat Pooh. From Boston she will travel to Martha’s Vineyard where she plans to spend three months experiencing all of the year’s seasons. Since she has been living in California she has never known winter, spring, and fall. And, of course, she will have time to get over Cliff.
That’s how the book begins—as she settles in for the flight—and the book ends as she lands in Boston. In between the book is about growing up, moving into an apartment with Diana, meeting Cliff and their eventual fairy tale wedding and three years together. In her one-of-a-kind style, Susan tells what her homemaker life was like with delightful details about decorating her home, cooking (she self-taught herself from Julia Child’s cookbooks), and eventually how she taught herself to paint wonderful watercolors. Susan writes as if she is talking to the reader.
The front and back inside pages of the book come from her baby book. They remind me of pages from my own baby book.
In addition to the three books that are based on her diaries, Susan has also written a dozen or so smaller “Heart of the Home” books featuring recipes and homemaking tips, quotes, and artwork—much the same as with her memoirs—with seasonal and other themes.
“The Fairy Tale Girl” is published by Spring Street Publishing (2015) and costs $28.95 in hardcover.