It’s quite an art to tell a new story and make it feel like a centuries old fable. Neil Gaiman does it well and often, but precious few others have the gift to infuse a story with the possibilities of magic, fate and serendipity. In The One Hundred Nights Of Hero Isabel Greenberg does just that, evoking a palpable otherworldliness that feels both near to our own experiences and yet still curiously distant and strange. Like Gaiman, some of her stories are built around existing folktales, but the sum of the whole is very much in her own voice.
At its heart, this is a book about love attempting to overcome adversity, but it’s also a tale of telling stories, about families and about hope. Two wealthy men make a wager that while one of them is away for 100 days the other cannot seduce his wife. Unbeknown to the husband is that his wife, Cherry, is in love with her maid, Hero. They have kept their passion hidden and, perhaps, have become overconfident in their deceit, but now this dreadful wager threatens everything. If Cherry fails to succumb then the seducer can lie or even overpower her, and who’s to believe Cherry’s version of events. So the two women hatch a plan to stall the man by telling a story. The story is long, and captivates the man, and as soon as it is told they embark on another, eating away at the nights. The tales are many, and some interlock and nod to one another in the telling.
The result is a modern classic, thoughtful and clever in its execution and delightful to read. Regardless of the fantastical or historical setting, humans battling with their emotions, struggling with family or exposed to injustice are relatable to, and that’s what makes so many folk and fairytales timeless. From cover to cover The One Hundred Nights Of Hero is a satisfying, captivating and uplifting read.
And if you liked that: Then you may also enjoy The Encyclopedia of Early Life, also by Isabel Greenberg