Girl Meets Boy – Ali Smith
November 8, 2010 § 6 Comments
The grey area, I’d discovered, had been misnamed: really the grey area was a whole other spectrum of colours new to the eye. She had the swagger of a girl. She blushed like a boy. She had a girl’s toughness. She had a boy’s gentleness. She was as meaty as a girl. She was as graceful as a boy. She was as brave and handsome and rough as a girl. She was pretty and delicate and dainty as a boy.
It’s one of my personal projects, really, to try and read as many books from the Canongate Myths Series as I can possibly get my hands on. Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy is one of those books in this series that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now. Well, I’m glad to say that this book did not disappoint me.
This time, Smith re-tells the myth of Iphis. In this story, the queen is expecting, but a wise (?) man comes along and tells the queen that if it is a son, then all is well and fine. But if it is a girl, they will have to kill her, as the kingdom simply cannot afford to bring this girl up. The mother prays to the goddess Isis, who tells her that no matter what, she should bring up the child, and that all will be well after.
I’m not even sure why I’m re-telling the myth right here. Go read this book!
But on the other side, this story didn’t feel so much like a re-telling, but rather much more like putting a modern twist to the original plot, and changing it in such a way that if not for the fact that we’re told this is the retelling of Iphis’s story, I wouldn’t have been the wiser.
In its own way, it’s different from some of the other Canongate Myth books I’ve read. Like Jeanette Winterson’s Weight, which was a re-telling of the story of Atlas and Hercules: that was a story that felt like going back to the original plot, only seeing it and reading it from a totally new and slightly skewed perspective. As it was with Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. But in this book, Ali Smith managed to write a story that I wouldn’t hesitate to call completely her own, sharing, of course, some salient points with the original.
The beginning was a little slow for me. I get easily confused, especially when I’m not sure who’s talking, who’s narrating, and what on earth the story is all about. But it is also easy for me to get swept into the book if the telling is good, the language easy, the prose free-flowing. Which was the case with this story.
I felt like the Internet, full of every kind of information but none of it mattering more than any of it, and all of its little links like thin white roots on a broken plant dug out of the soil, lying drying on its side.
The truth is this. This is my kind of love story. Daring. Different.
Did their hearts hurt? I said. Did they think they were underwater all the time? Did they feel scoured by light? Did they wander about not knowing what to do with themselves?