Sunday, October 23, 2011

YA Fiction: Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block

Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books (HarperCollins)
Date: 2006
Format: hardback
Acquired: purchased from
Read: because I love myth retellings
Pages: 116
Reading time: 45 minutes

Psyche, seventeen, abandoned by her mother, used only as an actress by her father, has never known Love - until he climbs through her window one night. The two become lovers, even though Psyche has never seen Love's face. But one night she chooses to reveal his true form, and, tormented by self-doubt, Psyche chases Love away forever. She yearns to be transformed as the women in the ancient Greek myths were, and embarks on a journey through Hell and mythology to discover herself and find her true Love once again.

What verse novels lack in details, they more than make up in lyricism. Francesca Lia Block's Psyche in a Dress is no exception. Her writing and the story are unique, creative, dark, insightful, raw, engrossing, heartbreaking - in short, the makings of an amazing novel. I started this book thinking it would be just a retelling of the tale of Cupid and Psyche + modern high school drama. What I got was so much more. Psyche in a Dress transcends both of these expectations. It covers multiple dramatic Greek love tales (in fact, a basic understanding of Greek mythology is almost essential to completely understanding the plot) as Psyche morphs from Psyche (of course) to Echo, Eurydice, Persephone, Demeter, and herself. Modern high school drama? There's none. Instead, you get exploitative father-daughter relationships, masochistic dating, slave driving employers, and mothers who just want what's best for their children.

I also started reading Psyche in a Dress thinking that I'd read half of it one night and half of it another. I read it straight through, non-stop, and never even thought of putting it down. The story, in all its simplicity and darkness, is that engrossing - you just completely lose yourself in it. Also, by the ending of the novel I was about to cry, and that's extremely rare for me and books. High emotions and I don't get along well, but we were beginning to here.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds amazing. Adding it to my TBR - I love anything that plays with myth in a good way.