Puppet Parade- by Zeinab Alayan



This beautifully written book is full of inventiveness, emotion, and clever re-examinations of a host of fantasy ideas. This is a modern adult fairy story, which draws on so many classic themes and cultural tales that it is difficult to guess which ones were originally uppermost in Alayan’s mind. It is not that we need to de-construct to enjoy the story; it is simply that as a writer I cannot stop myself wondering from where the spark came. What we do need to do, if cynical adults, is to re-construct some aspects of our childish selves. After all, this is a fairy story in which wooden puppets can talk. Remember back to when Pinocchio seemed plausible. Now get on with finding your own way onto the train with Oliver and Sophie.
Alayan enables us to see a complex world through the eyes of the variably innocent and naïve, whilst at the same time she avoids creating a childish story. Her fairy tale grows out of what is already a fantasy world, one a dimension away from our own, and takes us into fantasy inside fantasy, and even a fantasy inside that, like a sort of giant layer cake. It is as though the Brothers Grimm had taken five or six folk tales, stripped each to its core, and then rebuilt their own complex dark fantasy from the result.
The whole book is all the cleverer as it is written through two pairs of childish eyes, one pair that hid from facing an outside world and one that were hidden from it. Actually, the pictures are so well drawn that it is easy to become submerged. For the times I took to read this work the Parade really existed, strings really did control the humans, and not the puppets, and if Alayan had asked me to see water flowing uphill I would have done so. As with any fantasy that starts to have a solid quality some structure needs to become predictable. Some stops on the train did little more than draw us a little further into understanding, but the length of the description and the multiple stops were necessary. Modern fantasies are often written far too short. Alayan’s generosity of quantity, as well as undeniable quality, made the conclusions so much more complete.
This is a longish book, because it needs to be long enough to draw us into the Parade, long enough for the reader to be “absorbed” and for the principle characters to grow. I don’t want to read a sequel. This is a completed fairy tale that needs no revisiting. It has its own encapsulated magic, which would only be damaged by reopening. However, I absolutely will be looking out for new works by Zeinab Alayan, just to see whether she can pull off such a feast again.


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