Nov 28, 2010

The Coachman Rat

by David Henry Wilson

Yesterday I decided to pick up a familiar book and just enjoy it. One I read so long ago the ending was just a blur in my memory, so still a re-discovery of sorts. The Coachman Rat. You can read my previous thoughts about it here.

The Coachman Rat is, of course, a re-telling of Cinderella from the rat's point of view, who was turned into a coachman for one night. Robert the rat had always been fascinated with humans, to the point of being estranged from his rat family, so becoming a human, even momentarily, was like a dream come true for him. After the stroke of midnight made him a rat again (but retained his human speech), his life's mission became to find the "woman of light" (fairy godmother) who could change him back again. In the meantime he got snatched up by men fascinated by his ability to speak. First he was displayed in the market and forced to talk as a freak show to earn coins, then handed off to a scientists who wanted to study his abilities and find an explanation. Sadly, those who professed to be Robert's friends only had their own interests at heart and although his quest to find Amadea (Cinderella) lead him to her again, it also made the public believe she was consorting with witches and talking animals. In one of the most horrific scenes in the story, Amadea and her prince are killed by a mob, even as Robert gets his wish and becomes human again. Embittered against humans, he turns all his conniving rat's wits against the people, working his own scheme to not only get revenge on the mob leader now in power but to destroy the whole town as well. I liked that this story has elements of not just Cinderella but also of the Pied Piper. It's not a very pretty tale. After the mob scene all the events tend to go downhill, and the ending, while dark and violent, was also fitting- considering the historical role rats have played in connection with the Black Plague. All in all a very interesting read, if you like your fairy tales with a twist.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 171 pages, 1985

More opinions at:
Jenny's Books
anyone else?


Jenny said...

I read this on your recommendation (possibly even for your challenge? I can't remember...), and I thought it was very cool. Fairy tale retellings are easily made boring, and this wasn't at all. It was cool and dark and great.

xalwaysdreamx said...

Oh, I'm all for dark twisted fairy tales. I know I've read someone else's review on this book a long time ago, but I can't remember where.