The Tooth Fairy
by Graham Joyce
Publisher: Gollancz, 2008.
You know the Tooth fairy right, cute little pixie type with wacky hat. Loveable creature much admired by young children as it sneaks about taking discarded teeth and swapping them for vast sums of money. Turns out they are not quite that nice after all.
Sam accidentally sees the Tooth Fairy one night and things take a downward turn from then on. You see, this tooth fairy, is an evil manipulative spirit and the fact that he/she is seen binds it to Sam, neither is particularly happy with this situation.
This book is not really about fairies though, good or bad. It’s about growing up; it’s about dealing with all life’s problems through a difficult adolescence. It is, in fact, a coming of age story.
Set in the late sixties the book also plays out in tandem with the sexual and cultural revolutions taking place in that period. Sam and his friends are faced with increasingly complicated and often tragic family histories. Trying to make sense of this whilst being confronted with an often malevolent spirit makes Sam’s life particularly difficult and for the reader, particularly interesting.
Graham Joyce’s use of a normally happy childhood symbol in an altogether more malevolent form is genius. It allows him to exaggerate and emphasise the difficulties Sam experiences growing up. That difficult period of puberty as new feelings and experiences begin to come to prominence is given added mystique.
Needless to say sex plays a prominent role throughout the book as Sam’s urges awaken against the background of a general rise in promiscuity in the late 60’s. The offsetting of Sam’s innocence with the Tooth Fairies experience provides a rich vein of confusion in Sam’s mind which Joyce exploits to the full.
So the tooth fairy becomes a metaphor for life’s difficulties. The characters are engaging, the plot compelling and original and the balance between humour and pathos is beautifully realised. Anyone expecting a fantasy or fairy story should steer clear but anyone who enjoys a gritty psychological drama with plenty of horrific overtones will really enjoy this book.
Rating 4 out of 5