Book Review: A.L. Bell – ‘Mr Friedman’s Fireside Tales’

By February 20, 2014 Book, Reviews

It’s cold outside, the recession’s rattling its bargain bin sabres again, and spring seems like it’s afraid to rear its pretty little green head.  What better antidote to the icy outside world than a crackling fire, a mug of something hot, and an old-school storyteller with some tales to tell?  Are we sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin…

Mr Friedman's Tales book.jpg

York St John alum A.L. Bell presents us here with a series of tales told within the frame narrative of a Christmastime storyteller gathering some eager-eared urchins around a fire. You immediately get a sense of the author’s performance background through the lively and inclusive prose that helps to breathe believable and charming life into the characters on offer here. You will find musicians battling evil, Princes inventing soul-healing machines, Princesses with magical flowers, and many other wonders lurking within these pages. For the keen eyed and eared though there is clearly another mystery threading its eager way through the length of the book too.

It’s difficult to describe the action here in any greater detail than that without giving too much away. Suffice to say the seven tales on offer here are all tightly constructed and thoughtful approaches to a traditional genre.  There has been a recent fashion regarding the updating of traditional fairy tales and bringing them into the modern era, supplanting our well-loved favourites into thriving Metropolises such as New York, or London, but here Bell allows the tales to live in a world of their own (equally thriving mind you), allowing the narratives themselves to thrive in their own originality.

The use of a storyteller character within the book gives Bell the chance to embrace the performative side of storytelling in an entertaining but also utterly convincing way.  When Bell suggests: “The children loved it when he got really into the act of the telling… as they watched him and listened to his voice, other worlds and dimensions would come alive before their eyes”, she is proved right with the turning of each page.

It’s a collection that draws you in and makes the wind outside feel like it’s blowing a little less aggressively.  Suitable for youngsters looking for a good tale, or for adults craving something traditional.  As an artifact itself, publisher Book Guild has done a good job in creating an extremely aesthetically appealing tome which would make this an ideal gift (particularly at Christmastime – though we may be a little late for that) for any loved ones with penchant for folktales.

With another series of tales on the way, it might just be the ideal time to let ‘Mr Friedman…’ come and warm up your chilly home with his adventures.  For anyone who hasn’t quite lost that childhood love of imagination and new worlds, this could be the perfect antidote to the never ending winter.

And just like all the best things in life: Yes, there is a big arse dragon!