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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint. New York: Tor, 2001. ISBN: 0-312-87397-2

Of the several de Lint books I've read up till now, this is my favorite. Jilly Coppercorn, the painter of fairies and other magical creatures is herself now the main character, and since we've likely already come to know her at least glancingly well from her frequent appearances in the other collections of Newford stories such as Dreams Underfoot, Moonlight & Vines, and Tapping the Dream Tree, it is rewarding to encounter her as the primary focus here.

So now we get an in-depth exploration of Jilly herself, and there's certainly more to her than one might first expect, given the kind of confident self-actualized person she seems to be today. She indeed turns out to be The Onion Girl, unwrapping her many layers for us as the story proceeds. Some of those layers are not very pretty but must be exposed and dealt with if we are to have any kind of a happy ending.

As the story begins, Jill has been hit and seriously injured in a hit and run accident, and is struggling for her life. While asleep, she wanders in the Dreamlands, a place she previously knows only from her friend Sophie's stories, who also travels there in her dreams. Jilly is tempted to spend more and more time there, since returning to this world means returning to a body that is badly injured, and may never be capable of walking, let alone painting.

The other primary character is Jilly's younger sister Raylene, who has a deep and abiding hate for her sister, a hate not entirely unjustified, as we come to learn.

The combination of these elements, the back and forth between this world as we know it, and the alternate reality of the dreamworld, and the necessity for Jilly to face her past and the results of her actions as a girl many years before all combine to create a powerful story that will move you and keep you turning pages. Highly recommended.

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