The Sleeper and the Spindle is a ‘sort of’ retelling of two classic fairytales: Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Written by Neil Gaiman, it follows his winning format, taking a well known subject and twisting it with dark and sinister undertones. Chris Riddell’s gorgeous illustrations compliment the story perfectly in every way.
We follow the story of The Queen (an ode to Snow White) as she leaves her home to reverse a sleeping enchantment that has taken over a neighbouring kingdom, by awaking the young woman (“Sleeping Beauty) who was cursed all those years ago. Along with 3 of her most loyal dwarves, the Queen encounters ‘sleepers’ on her travels, whilst trying to resist the effects of the curse herself.
This tale is not only one of fantasy, but also of the development of modern day storytelling. The fact that it is not the Prince who wakes the Princess….but is in fact the Queen, who has traveled long and far to do so, is a testament to the strength of women. To leave her kingdom, and her fiance behind to go on an intrepid quest, of which they don’t know whether they will return, so courage and bravery in numbers.
Gaiman’s casual brush over the fact that this features an LGBT kiss (how else do you awake a cursed princess) is heartwarming. The fact that this isn’t the main plot point, to me, makes the fact that it happened even more special.
Whilst the fact that Neil Gaiman, my favourite author, wrote this book was one reason for it being on my list, it wasn’t the main one. It was in fact that my all-time favourite illustrator, Chris Riddell, was involved on the project. His collaborations with Paul Stewart on ‘Muddle Earth’ and ‘ The Edge Chronicles’ were some of the first books I read as a child, and his drawings add a magic, and a sophistication to the stories.
I’ve had this book on my Goodreads ‘To-be-read’ shelf, as well as my physical bookshelf, for over a year now. But I have never taken the time to read it. In the latest release of Big Issue, they were offering readers a free Audible download of the audiobook, and so naturally I jumped at the chance! Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt, with performances by Lara Pulver as the Queen as well as Niamh Walsh, Peter Forbes and John Sessions.
My favourite thing about listening to the audiobook was that it gave me more time to more thoroughly examine Riddell’s illustrations, allowing me to notice the little details that I may have missed had I been concentrating solely on the words. I definitely think I’m going to invest in more audiobooks next year, that way I can listen on the move, in the car and on walks.
Are you an avid audiobook listener? Do you have any audiobooks that you can recommend I start with? Let me know!
Featured image credit: The Bibliomaniac