Only a couple of years ago I discovered of the Virago green spines littering the shelves of my local charity shops and this slim volume was the one of the first I picked up, mainly because of the lovely picture on the front. (That incidentally has very little to do with the story inside.)
It must be fate that I found this rather dusty copy at the back of my bookshelf only a few weeks ago as Simon at Stuck in Book also gave Eudora Welty a mention this week. What a treat this little book is! An adult fairy tale with a twist, Welty, inspired (I assume) somewhat not only by her homeland, but by the Brothers Grimm themselves, tells the tale of Jamie Lockhart; a charismatic outlaw terrorising the population of deepest darkest Mississpi with his band of thieves, and Rosamund Musgrow; a completely innocent and utterly stupid young woman who wanders the countryside in her expensive silk gown, blissfully unaware of her evil stepmothers' burning desire to get rid of her for good. Stepmothers do get a bad press in fairy tales don't they?
Against an atmospheric backdrop populated by legendary figures from the place and period, Jamie Lockhart claims Rosamund as his own (quite literally) and whisks her off into the sunset to live as his 'robber bride'. This is a dark, poetic and completely unreal short(ish) story, written in an authentic voice and chock full of twists, turns and tricks. Drawing inspiration from traditions and tales far older than herself, Welty has written something truly unique. Something I rarely stumble across nowadays...
'"Oh, you do plague me so, to be nothing more than a head wrapped up in blue mud, though I know your eyes and your tongue do stick out as red as fire, the way you came down off the pole in Rodney Square." And he said, "Oh, Big Harp, my brother, please stay in the trunk like a good head, and don't be after me eternally for raiding and murdering, for you give me no rest."
But the voice said, "Let me out!" all the while, even after the Little Harp fell asleep and went to snoring.'