REVIEW: Fabulous, Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Monday, 25 May 2020

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Each of these startlingly original stories is set in modern Britain. Their characters include a people-trafficking gang-master and a prostitute, a migrant worker and a cocksure estate agent, an elderly musician doubly befuddled by dementia and the death of his wife, a pest-controller suspected of paedophilia and a librarian so well-behaved that her parents wonder anxiously whether she’ll ever find love. They’re ordinary people, preoccupied, as we all are now, by the deficiencies of the health service, by criminal gangs and homelessness, by the pitfalls of dating in the age of #metoo.  All of their stories, though, are inspired by ones drawn from Graeco-Roman myth, from the Bible or from folk-lore.

If I am being honest, I am starting to think retellings are just not the books for me. Despite the wealth of effort that goes into them (and I am sure that it is more than it ever seems to be), they never manage to come off as fresh, or new, or even just as somewhat successful reinventions; just the same old stories but with a few name changes and a different setting. And, unfortunately, Lucy Hughes-Hallett's Fabulous is a perfect example of everything in the form that I have problems with: it was like she was tying herself in knots to translate the themes of each of the stories into modern-day, but it just wasn't working. It was painful to read and, though I hoped and willed each and every one of them to finally reach its goal, the satisfaction just never came.

star rating: two stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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