Beauty and the beast

The first fairy stories were never intended for children

Stories are fundamental to humanity and no one can guess how far back they go — long before they were first recorded, no doubt. As Thomas Mann says at the beginning of Joseph and his Brothers: The further down into the lower world of the past we probe and press, the more do we find that the earliest foundations of humanity, its history and culture, reveal themselves unfathomable. The existence in different cultures and remote places of tales similar to Cinderella, for instance, suggests ur-stories, common ancestors millennia old. There is no accessing those original folk tales. All we can say is that they were already very deep-rooted when they

Let’s swap murders: Amanda Craig’s The Golden Rule reviewed

It has been three years since Amanda Craig’s previous novel, The Lie of the Land, the story of a foundering marriage set among the gathering shadows of Brexit. The Golden Rule is worth the wait. It opens with a nod to Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, the classic thriller in which two strangers, meeting by chance on a train, agree to murder each other’s wives. In this case, the genders are reversed, and the strangers are two women, Hannah and Jinni, who meet on the long journey from London to Cornwall. Hannah, the central character, has escaped from her working-class Cornish family via university to London. But life has