Book Review: Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill

Book Review: Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill

Daydreams of Angels
Author: Heather O’Neill
ISBN: 9781554684519
Retail Price: $22.99
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Review by Simon Châteauneuf

As we grow up, we often start to lose that whimsical sense of wonder and imagination that populated our minds as young kids. The world loses a touch of mystery and our day-to-day lives become a little less unpredictable. However, through her incredible collection of 20 fairy tales and fables for adults in Daydreams of Angels, Montrealer Heather O’Neill definitely proves that she hasn’t lost hers yet and that even a grown-up can handle and enjoy a little absurdity.

From the failed attempts of crazed scientists trying to reproduce the talents of the dancer Nureyev through cloning in “Swan Lake for Beginners” to the story of a grandfather, entertaining his grandchildren (and us in the process) with his tales of how he went to heaven and witnessed angels micro-managing animals, then wounded soldiers and all manner of people into compartments of the train going to the heavens, O’Neill never ceased to delight me and build a constant feeling of marvel. Never once while reading this impressive collection was I bored. She keeps the readers on their toes, as the stories are short and sweet and hence never overstay their welcome.

Although these stories are short, that doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful. These pages run high on emotion and I can count many a time I shed a tear, whether it be of joy or sadness, as I read. Sometimes the fables contain such powerful messages that you have to wonder about the skill required to conceal them in stories so whimsical.

She also manages to insert great wisdom into her works. For example, O’Neill inspires with her knowledge of the inequality of the sexes in “The Saddest Chorus Girl in the World”, where a young girl named Violet escapes her stepfather who lusts after her. She thinks it’s sad when girls fall in love: “The girls had been taught that other girls weren’t important and that real life only happened when you were with a man.”

Even more notably still, is O’Neill’s fantastic ability to create metaphors. She uses them often to everyone’s delight which helps paint a crystal-clear picture of events in your mind. Some will be astonished at how these particular expressions help push the story forward at a great pace thanks to their originality. For example, a bear was “spinning balls around as though he was God and he was deciding where to put what in the solar system.”

From the charming tales of love, loss and realities of life, to the whimsical and awe-inspiring way that O’Neill tells these tales using her amazing metaphor ability, this book is worth your time. I can’t remember the last time I felt so delighted reading a book. The world of literature needs more wondrous writers like Heather O’Neill, who know that once in a while, a little absurdity is a good thing.

Categories: Quebec Literature

About Author

Simon Châteauneuf

Creative and energetic, Simon goes through his day-to-day life in high school as a 16 year-old (going on 17) student smiling and unflinching, stopping to talk to everyone on his path. Although quite sociable, he’s never been able to resist the callings of a good book and can often be seen reading, drawing or writing throughout his house. Having learned his English thanks to family from Scotland, he can easily express himself in two languages and enjoys reading material in both English and French.

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