12/08/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
by A.S. Byatt
Novelist A.S. Byatt, bestselling author of the Booker Prize winner, Possession, weaves here a magical collection of stories (including two already seen in her novels). For the most part these tales take place in faraway lands where princesses and great monsters dwell, but, in distinctly modern fashion, they are also stories about storytelling. In "The Story of the Eldest Princess," for example, the heroine sets out to find a silver bird that will save her kingdom. Instead of completing her task, however, she meets an old woman who teaches the princess that other outcomes to her quest are just as acceptable.
The title story, set in the present day, is the collection's jewel. While attending an academic conference in Turkey, a middle-aged "narratologist" stumbles upon—what else?—a glass bottle. When released, the djinn inside helps the immensely likable and smart woman understand her own feminine narrative and teaches the reader much about the universal desire to write one's own story. (Random House, $20)