5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, sensitive - a magical story
This is an excellent book with many layers. The weaving of the two different stories is well crafted and yet the connections between the two are complex rather than simplistic. This makes reading the book much more interesting and dream like - as though each story was a dream of the other.
Woven throughout is example after example of how rigid religious and social...
Published on Feb. 7 2002 by John S. Anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wild Swans
Two alternating narratives, one retelling the folktale The Wild Swans as if in the 17th century, and one about a young gay man in the early 1980's; one has a happy ending, and one is tragic.
It seems possible to me that the characters in the 20th century plotline are meant to be reincarnations of those in the earlier one -- based on name similarities and a statement...
Published on Feb. 9 2004 by K. Freeman
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Wild Swans,
It seems possible to me that the characters in the 20th century plotline are meant to be reincarnations of those in the earlier one -- based on name similarities and a statement made by one minor character. But if that's the case, some events are certainly left unexplained.
The sentence-level writing is painfully clunky at times, and overall the 20th century plot is better developed and more believable than the 17th, which doesn't seem to me to capture the necessary magic. Kerr skillfully portrays the tragedy of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. In general her characterization is competent.
In the first part of the book I was thinking "this would be great for teaching young adults about tolerance, but the universe is so benevolent it's not even believable." Obviously, it doesn't stay that way. In fact, the end of the 20th century plotline is so tragic that it has stayed with me in haunting fashion. It seems clear that Elias hasn't done anything wrong, but nevertheless he's doomed, and worst of all, the swans fly away from him in his dream: he is not only physically but thematically cursed. I'm not sure I understood what the author was trying to convey, but I certainly found the conclusion emotionally effective.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well-written, though not my usual fare,
I knew there would be two threads from the start, but expected them to converge rather than run parallel. There were tantalising echoes of one story in the other, in the choice of people's names and their attitudes, but those echoes did nothing to actually further either plot, and could have been omitted. The lamest part was the way the 11 brothers were woven into the AIDS story. They didn't impinge on Elias' life so it wouldn't have mattered if they hadn't been there.
Read this book on the assumption that there are 2 separate stories, and you will enjoy it. Be warned that Elias' story doesn't have a happy ending, though it has closure.
Nothing is ever said of what happens to the Countess, who should be justly punished, or for that matter what happens to Benjamin with his wing (does he get his arm back at night?). A sequel might be in order here.
4.0 out of 5 stars inextricable,
By A Customer
There are still places where I don't really see how the stories tied together, and yes, I was more engaged at various points with one story than the other. But I think to say that this book would be improved by surgical separation is to miss the point. Yes, most readers already know the fairytale that is at the heart of Eliza's story. Yes, Elias' story, because we don't already know where it's going, can seem more engaging. But the power of this novel lies in between its stories, in the interface between the mythical and the mundane and the place where the happily-ever-after of the fairytale meets the idea of death as the ultimate act of looking forward. Both are stories about coming to peace through hardship and suffering, though the endings Elias and Eliza come to may be different. The story speaks to the power of hope that our myths give us, and that, I think, is where its real success lies.
4.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, eye opening, surprising,
Like a number of other reviewers, I feel that the story concerning Elias is more engaging than Eliza's story. Don't get me wrong, Eliza's story was interesting and well-written, but I knew the fairy tale that this book is based upon and could figure out the ending. Ms. Kerr does a fabulous job of presenting the same sort of story in two different contexts with two different endings. The reader is sure that Eliza will get her happy ending. Today especially, readers know that Elias and his "brothers" cannot reach the same sort of resolution.
I liked the paralells between the two stories a great deal. There is a bit in the very last chapter that ties the two tales together in a very nice way...I won't reveal it, because I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone.
This book opened my eyes to thoughts and people that I hadn't considered before. The "modern" side of the story literally broke my heart. Again, I don't want to spoil the ending, but suffice to say that I was at my job when I finished reading this, and I cried enough that I had to close my shop for ten minutes while I got myself back together enough to face the public. I have read very few books that have moved me and changed my world as much as this one did. I have recommended it to most of my friends, and now I urge anybody who has stopped to read this review to pick up a copy of your own.
2.0 out of 5 stars Inferior to Daughter of the Forest,
4.0 out of 5 stars If this book had omitted the fairy tale half,
By A Customer
Still, Sean and Elias' half of this book is the only one that came alive to me. As two gay men in NYC at the dawn of the AIDS era, watching their friends and acquaintances all becoming struck down by what then was known as "gay cancer," it was tragically obvious what their fates must be. And yet, Kerr makes them so very real that you read on until the bitter end because, just as if they were your friends in real life, you simply have to "be there" for them when they draw their last breaths.
As I watched Sean befriend the younger Elias and help him come to terms with his homosexuality, while denying his own mortality (a denial which leads to the ultimate tragic consequence for both Sean and Elias), I saw something that felt so human and so real, that I almost felt like a voyeur. The scenes where Sean and Elias wordlessly "bond" in the face of this realization are, quite simply, breathtaking.
By contrast, the "Eliza" (of the many swan-brothers) half of the book seemed composed of far too many disparate elements. Eliza herself turned out to be that creature in fantasy fiction I dislike most - a heroine who is just too good and too beautiful to be true. Totally undeveloped as a character, passive, yet impossibly noble and, ultimately for me, incredibly dull. The attempt to cobble Eliza's story to the New England witchcraft trials and the repressed sexuality theme of The Scarlett Letter (albeit in this book the repression is a homosexual one) seemed stale and predictable. I just never cared what happened to her, or her umpteen interchangeable brothers (too bad when Kerr was doing the adapting she didn't whittle their number down somewhat, although I doubt it would have made much difference).
The connective-tissue swan imagery was nice and all that, but any competent author can establish a mood for a book with that kind of thing, and that's not what impresses me when I read a book. More than that, I want characters who make me feel something, whose fates I truly care about, and I want to feel uplifted when when their story is done.
Sean and Elias did that for me, in a milieu with which I'm not at all familiar. I thought they had a story worth telling and Peg Kerr told it well. But I felt Eliza's story has been told too many times before and while this version did add some new elements, those elements simply added to the PLOT. They didn't add to the STORY.
5.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, sensitive - a magical story,
Woven throughout is example after example of how rigid religious and social structures can damage and destroy good, ethical, value driven individuals when those structures lack compassion and understanding.
I would recommend this book to anyone.
5.0 out of 5 stars An old tale gets new wings,
This review is from: The Wild Swans (Paperback)_The Wild Swans_ consists of two interweaving storylines. In one, a fairly straightforward retelling of the fairy tale "The Wild Swans", a young woman must weave coats of stinging nettles for her brothers to save them from an enchantment, all the while remaining silent until she has finished. In the other, a young gay man is kicked out of his house and is taken in by a charismatic musician. His new friend becomes his lover and introduces him to all his friends; they become his new family. Then they all start dying of AIDS. The two stories, on the surface, are nothing alike, but Kerr weaves them together in subtle and surprising ways, showing the common theme between them: that love may or may not conquer all, but it can keep hope and beauty alive even in tragedy. This book broke my heart and then fused it back together. Passionately recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully structured, subtle parallels, thought-provoking,
This review is from: The Wild Swans (Paperback)This book is one of the most beautifully structured books I've ever read. I found the parallels effective and subtle, and thought that they added a lot to the story, especially some of the less-obvious ones. However, neither of the stories felt "bent" to fit the other; each proceeded on its own, but the parallels were there. The characters were complex and interesting, and the description is especially striking. I found Elias's story as his friends fell to AIDS one by one to be absolutely chilling. I highly recommend this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, but magnificent still!,
This review is from: The Wild Swans (Paperback)I purchased this book solely because of the author. After having read Emerald House Rising, and finding it breath taking, I was willing to give anything by Peg Kerr a chance. I was not disappointed. I picked up the book one morning and finished the following evening, the whole time loathing each interval where I had to put it down, as it was completely captivating. The Wild Swans entails two parallel plots that do not seem entirely parallel until you reach the end. The two tales are so different that it is an astounding feat of the author to have tied them together so perfectly. Ultimately each left the imprint that family is precious, and must be fought for despite persecution, sought for despite apparent disappearance If not for the author, I never would have chosen to read this book, as it is in no way related to the normal choices of my reading. Yet I found it to be fascinating, as well as eye opening. The characters are well developed and presented, consistently conveying emotion in both action and speech. Both story lines are well thought out and flowing, each making you desire to keep turning pages. Altogether an enchanting, not to mention horizon broadening, read.
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The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr (Paperback - May 1 1999)
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