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Tender Morsels Paperback – Feb 9 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (Feb. 9 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375843051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375843051
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.6 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #307,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on Jan. 13 2009
Format: Hardcover
Liga has been mistreated all of her life. Her father is a monster; preying upon her at night in the midst of his drunken stupors. Liga's mother is dead, and cannot protect her daughter from the wickedness in the world.

Because of this, Liga is made a mother too early. In an act of desperation, Liga decides to kill her first child, believing that she will be better off in another place. A magic "moon-babby" takes pity on Liga and offers her an alternate universe to raise her daughters.

For many years, Urdda, Branza, and Liga are safe; no one can do them harm. Eventually, the boundaries of their world are infiltrated, and the three women must leave their paradise. Their new task; to survive in a world full of both cruelty and kindness, something that Liga thought she would never have to face again.

The basis for TENDER MORSELS is the story of Snow White and Rose Red. Two sisters must battle a dwarf and rescue a man from a witch's curse. Lanagan has included these pivotal plot details while still making the story her own.

There are many interesting twists that Lanagan has included in the novel. Her use of vocabulary and language is also very unique. The story may appear daunting to readers at first, but those who give it a chance will be greatly rewarded.

Reviewed by: LadyJay
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Format: Hardcover
Remember the lonely hut at the edge of a dark wood? Some will be familiar with the `The Ungrateful Dwarf' by Caroline Stahl which was reworked by the Brothers Grimm into `Snow White and Rose Red'. Both tales are influential here.

Liga's life has not been easy. Her mother died young, her father abuses her. Two of her pregnancies are aborted, but not the third. Her father dies. Liga is gang-raped, and becomes pregnant again. In her despair, she decides to throw herself and her baby off a cliff thus ending their miserable lives. But instead of dying, Liga and her baby are spirited to an alternate safe world where people are kind. In this world, Liga brings up her two daughters the peaceful Branza and the restless Urdda.

But while this alternate world is as Liga would have it, it is not impermeable. Witchcraft breaches the world, and first the thieving dwarf, Collaby Dought, and then a kind boy transformed into a bear. Collaby Dought visits more than once, but the first transformed bear leaves, and is followed by another entirely different transformed bear. And, while searching, Urdda finds a way out of this world back into the real world. Eventually, Liga and Branza must also rejoin the real world.

`It is required of you only to be here, not to be happy.'

Betrayal, incest and rape are the dark and confronting themes in this young adult novel, and the redeeming power of love also features. The real world is not always a comfortable place, but it isn't always unsafe. And there are ways of achieving safety. The magic provides a buffer for readers, enabling the issues to be identified without being overwhelming.

`Tender Morsels' is a powerful novel and like all good fairy tales confronts good and evil.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 60 reviews
50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
My best of the year -- so far Oct. 27 2008
By Sarah Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Once upon a time, the skeleton of this story was called Snow-White and Rose-Red. Like all fairy tales, it left much unexplained. Too much. Well, Margo Lanagan took those bones and added muscle and guts, bracing the loose joints of the plot with her characters' emotions, motivations, and histories. That's the secret of successful retellings: fleshing out the gaps that relied almost entirely on the readers' willful ignorance or suspension of belief, yet still leaving room for the existence of magic. And Lanagan knows how to handle magic delicately enough to make it believable: Tender Morsels revolves around magical doings, but never degrades enchantment to the level of coincidence. The plot must bend to fit the whims of the magic, and never, ever the reverse. Yet the setting is so rich that it all feels impossibly real.

And the characters -- hoo, the characters. They are vivid, passionate, flawed, sometimes randy (but never gratuitous), and fiercely devoted to their hearts' desires. Desires tangled with magic, though, turn out to have more power than any one of them have bargained for.

It's been almost a week, and I am still basking and soaking in this story. It is deep, thick, and heavy, but not in the ways that makes reading tiresome. It isn't a book you finish and set aside -- you surface from it and wait for it to roll off you. (I know, I know -- I'm going all purple and gushy. Plus I've overshot my adjective quota without ever managing to work in "visceral." Crap.)

An about face: I am somewhat loathe to admit this is not a book for everyone. Not by a long shot. The switching points of view, the nature of the abuse Liga weathers, and the spattering of old world Britishy-Irishy dialect each have the potential to deter a number of readers.

However, if you loved the themes of sweetness and brutality in The Giver, the robust characters and setting of The Moorchild, and the emotional tone of Donna Jo Napoli's fairy tale-based novels, I'd lay odds you'll be content to envelop yourself for a few days in Tender Morsels. It is quite possibly THE best reading experience I've had so far this year.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Dark retelling of Snow White and Rose Red May 21 2009
By L. H. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
First of all, I will say that I did not exactly *enjoy* reading this book which is one reason why I took away one star. It's a bit too heavy to *enjoy.* I also think that although this is technically a "young adult" book, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under 16 years old - the themes seem like they would resonate most strongly with someone older (whether you should shelter your children from the evils of the world or just do your best to equip your children to handle them; being overlooked by the younger, more beautiful woman; and so on). I don't think younger readers should be prevented from reading it, I'm just not sure how interested they would be.

If you do give this book to someone on the younger side of "young adult" be prepared to discuss some of the issues that arise in it with them. As other reviewers have stated, there is incest, rape, forced abortions, contemplations of suicide, and borderline bestiality. The audience for this book is not the same as say, Ella Enchanted or Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast or The Goose Girl. If you want a fairy tale re-telling that is funny, or adventurous, or romantic, this story is NOT the right story for you.

So who is the audience for this book? I think that those who like the SNOW WHITE, BLOOD RED (CREED S.) series of adult fairy tale re-tellings are good candidates to like (maybe even love) this book as well.

So far, it sounds like I hated the book, but obviously, giving it four stars, I didn't. It is beautifully-written and very powerful. I'm still thinking about it even though I finished reading it over a week ago. It's the kind of book I think I'll probably come back to years from now to re-read, and I know I'll get something different out of it than I did the first time through.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Darkest before dawn kind of beautiful May 14 2010
By Lawral Wornek - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Brutal does not even begin to cover it. Liga's life with her father is a nightmare. It is clear that she is repeatedly raped by her father. It is not graphically described in the text, but is in the forefront of Liga's thoughts often and so often "discussed." The miscarriages he forces her to have through the use of teas and herbs, on the other hand, are described in graphic detail. The fact that Liga has no idea what is happening to her when she miscarries is, I think, part of why they are described in such detail. Even though she thinks about it often, her mind shies away from the acts her father performs on her. Her shame and self-preservation together keep the detail out of these account. As she slowly comes to realize that the rapes, teas, miscarriages, her monthly blood, and babies are all related, each of these acts in her past are revisited. And things don't even get better after Liga's father dies! Left alone in their cottage with only her infant daughter for company, Liga is gang-raped (again, not graphically described, but not exactly glossed over either) by a group of town boys. This is what finally makes her want to end her own, and her baby's, life.

That's the opening of the book. It's hard to read.

The first time I checked this book out of the library, I couldn't read the whole thing. Long before the gang-rape and attempted suicide, I returned the book. I didn't decide to check it out again until the Common Sense debacle with Barnes and Noble came out. Still, I didn't get around to actually checking it out until a few weeks ago. I was determined to get through the horrible parts so that I could see Liga in her heaven, and after reading all of that, I needed to see Liga in her heaven. So many other readers had said that the wretched beginning is worth it once you get to the rest of the story , not to mention that I figured the whole book couldn't be ruined by the opening, given its many awards.

It is worth it.

The rest of the story is a fairytale. It is actually based on Snow White and Rose Red. Once Liga's daughters are old enough to have personalities, Tender Morsels becomes their story. It is about Branza and Urdda learning who they are as people and learning how to make their own way in what is, literally, their mother's world. Their story is beautiful, and I think the ugliness that preceeds it helps to make it so. Urdda grows up to be the awesomely headstrong and smart young woman that I always look for in book. I want a whole other book full of her, especially once she leaves her mother's heaven. Branza's nice too, but I clearly have my favorite.

But here is my dilemma: By the end, I really liked this book and I would love to recommend it, but to whom? I don't agree with the Common Sense rating at Barnes and Noble, that Tender Morsels is not appropriate for anyone under 18, but I do think that I may hesitate to recommend it to young adults that I do not know extremely well. That said, this book will have its readers, both teen and adult.

Book source: Philly Free Library
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
(2.5) Disturbing June 3 2009
By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have a long-time interest in adaptations of fairy tales, and so it surprised me that it took me so long to get through Tender Morsels, a strange and dark retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red."

The beginning is promising. We meet Liga, mother of the "Snow White" and "Rose Red" characters, as a traumatized teenager. She is sexually abused by her father and later raped by town boys, and Margo Lanagan handles these sensitive topics well. The actual abuse is never described in detail, so it's not sensationalistic. I had a lot of sympathy for Liga and was rooting for her survival. The prose has moments of exquisite beauty, but I should warn readers that there's a lot of Scottish-style dialect in it, so it may not be every reader's cup of tea.

Eventually, Liga is whisked away from her painful existence by a lunar entity. This sounds a lot like Robin McKinley's Deerskin on paper, but it's written very differently and doesn't feel like the same story at all. Liga is granted a "heaven," a kinder and gentler world in which to raise her two daughters. Years later, one of the girls finds a way to cross back into the real world, and that's when things really get complicated.

The original fairy tale includes a man transformed into a bear. At first, I really liked Lanagan's take on this aspect of the story. The bears (there are multiple man-bears in the novel) are participants in an initiatory/fertility rite of sorts in which they enact the roles of bears. When they cross into Liga's "heaven," they become actual bears for the duration of their time there.

About two thirds of the way through Tender Morsels, I got bogged down. There is far too much time spent in the POVs of less-than-sympathetic characters, and a bit too much dwelling on the bear-men and their...ahem...affection for she-bears. I've seen reviews of Tender Morsels that blast the rape themes as too disturbing for teen readers, but that aspect doesn't bother me. It's not explicit, and sadly, there are too many kids who have actually experienced these horrors and might find a kindred spirit in Liga. The material about rape never squicked me, only saddened me. The bear-related material hit some of my personal gross-out buttons.

It was at that point that I skipped ahead and read the ending. What I saw was intriguing enough that I went back and read the rest of the book, and yes, it gets better. The unsympathetic characters drop back to minor-character status, and the narrative returns to the characters we've come to care about. It all comes together in an ending that's satisfying, if bittersweet. That said, Tender Morsels has one heck of a sagging middle, and in my opinion, would have been stronger if it had been about 100 pages shorter.

One more thing that sat wrong with me: There's a dark-skinned character in this novel, and he's a rapist. And there doesn't seem to be any reason for his skin color, except maybe to make Urdda (the Rose Red character) look different from Branza (the Snow White character). Maybe it's to explain Urdda's "wildness," too. I hope not, because the association of dark skin and wildness is a long-standing stereotype. I realize that in the original story, Rose Red was more daring than her sister, but I don't see why she couldn't have just been a redhead or brunette and had the same personality. Instead, there's a racial aspect to the story that unsettled me. Urdda herself could be seen as an example of a positive character who is half black, but that still only adds up to two black characters, one of whom is a nasty piece of work. I think I'd have been more comfortable if Lanagan had included other positive nonwhite characters, or if she'd just made all the rapists white.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A lurid yet beautiful tale May 9 2010
By Sonia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Tender Morsels by Margo Langan is a rich, highly unusual fantasy novel, set somewhere unspecified in eastern Europe during the medieval times. Liga Longfield is only thirteen when she has her first miscarriage. She gets repeatedly raped and sexually abused by her own father, Da, and gets pregnant multiple times, the baby usually terminated by potions her da buys from the neighboring mudwife, Muddy Annie Bywell. One day, Liga decides she wants to keep her baby, and hides her pregancy from Da. When Da finds out, he is furious, and goes to Muddy Annie's to buy more abortion methods. However, after he doesn't return for many days, Liga finds him dead on the side of the road, killed by a horse and carriage.

Now living alone, Liga gives birth to her baby, Branza, though misfortune still lurks around the corner. She gets raped by five town boys, and is soon pregnant again. Devasted, Liga attempts to kill herself and her baby, because life is too cruel for either of them to live. However, a mysterious force prevents her from doing so, and takes her to her own person heaven, a safe place where all evils and woes are gone. There, she gives birth to Urdda, her fiery second daughter. As the years pass by, Liga raises her two daughters in the safe world of her personal heaven. However, greedy men and magicked bears intrude on their barriers, whether accidental or not, and Liga's heavenly life is turned upside down.

Tender Morsels was fantastic. The prose was unusual but extraordinary, and captured the darkness and brutality of this tale. The prologue was quite confusing since the writing was so lyrical, so I had to reread it a few times to understand it. (If you go back and reread it after you finish the book, it makes a lot more sense.) However, once that was out of the way, the first few pages were extremely grim; they documented Liga's sexual abuse and miscarriages, though I was mesmerized by the disturbingness. The author does a pretty good job of skirting around the actual rape scenes, and tends to describe the traumatic effects opposed to the action. The characters are deep, realistic, and flawed, and all have their motivations. After I finished reading the book, I just sat there for a moment, slowly surfacing out of the rich world that Tender Morsels takes place in. This book is rich and hearty, like soup, and will keep your belly full of thoughts and questions for the next few days.

My favorite character was Urdda, because she was so fiery! She never hesitating in asking for the truth, and loved the spirit of adventure. Branza was more gentle, like her mother Liga, but just as realistic. The character of Bullock bothered me, for some reason, maybe because he seemed a little too bland.

I rated this book only four stars because I was not partial to the ending. Though I won't unleash any spoilers, it seemed abrupt, and everybody ended up doing the wrong things and with the wrong people. Also, Branza still seemed to yearn for life in heaven, and many of her questions still lay unanswered, all because she didn't want to press her mom for the details. This goes against the message that the book seems to say, which is that shelter from the harsh truth is never good.

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