Tangleweed and Brine

Appropriately, the endpapers of this fine collection of feminist fairy-tales are black, anticipating the darkness of its preoccupations, the horrors of human depravity and the historical treatment of women, often intimately bound up. The notion is first muted on the cover where blood-infused creepers not merely entrap the crowns, hearts and slippers of sanitised stories for children, but reveal snakes, axes and padlocks.

Vaughan’s artwork throughout, in primitive black and white, is often captivatingly complex and disturbingly mesmeric, harking back to a previous generation of fairy-tale illustrators while significantly contributing to the synergy between this volume’s words and images.

Sullivan’s stories also emerge from familiar sources, the seeming simplicity of the prose and intimacy of address both reminiscent of traditional narratives. In her enthralling renditions the feminine is inseparable from the political and the sexual. The recurring conviction that ‘women must be trained’, testifies to underlying male fears and the consequential need to render females powerless: a chain restricts the body of a baby girl, violent male hands are pressed around throats and for displeasing the influential, ‘they walled her up’. Chillingly, we are told that ‘women learn’, but often they don’t. Witches abound, and some female protagonists espouse evil. ‘You murdered your first baby. It felt fine.’ Pure love is rarely depicted and never free from harrowing complexities. The book ends with an Amazonian galvanising of potency and quiet rage, the tense used warning of the ever-present threat. An engrossing and terrifying work.

About the Author
Headshot of Deirdre Sullivan
Deirdre Sullivan is a writer and teacher from Galway. She has written seven acclaimed books for young adults, and was the recipient of the CBI Book of the Year Award in 2018 and 2021 and the An Post Irish Book Award for YA in 2020.
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About the Illustrator
Headshot of Karen Vaughan
Karen Vaughan is an award- winning designer and illustrator with a particular love for pen and ink. She studied illustration in the North Wales School of Art and Design. Her intricate illustrations are inspired by folk tales, nature and the elaborate patterns and fashions of long ago.
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Book Cover - Tangleweed and Brine
Publication Date
October 2017