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Science Fiction Fantasy Blog

Our Discussion of The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips--Jilly, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in the city's shadows. Now, at last, de Lint tells Jilly's own story...for behind the painter's fey charm lies a dark secret and a past she's labored to forget. And that past is coming to claim her now.

"I'm the onion girl," Jilly Coppercorn says. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." She's very, very good at running. But life has just forced Jilly to stop. –Goodreads

This book is #8 in the Newford series, and while it can mostly stand on its own, several of us felt we were missing important background information on the characters.

Below is a sampling of our comments:

  • I didn’t care about the characters and found Jilly to be exhaustingly annoying. Each character had one trait; good Jilly, evil Raylene, and horrible Pinky…
  • Raylene’s thick, bad grammer was over the top; her character was a stereotype.
  • I really liked it and could relate to the repeated dream locations – for some reason, I always dream I’m shopping…
  • The abuse endured by Jilly and Raylene was horrifying – the end did not tie up many loose ends.
  • There wasn’t enough fantasy versus the terrible abuse – the book was maybe only a quarter fantasy.
  • Was Wendy the only character not to have experienced abuse of some kind as a child?
  • Why do we believe what we do? The interview snippets allowed Jilly to express why she believes in magic. The idea seems to be that magic is there for those that let themselves see it.
  • Question: when Joe walked through the wall, wouldn’t that have been enough to allow Lou to believe? It seems that all it would take to convince people of magic would be to demonstrate that ability.
  • Toby also manifested this idea of magic depending on belief – if people remembered him, he would exist, but if they forgot about him, he would fade away.
  • I liked this better the first time I read it – this time it seemed preachy.
  • Raylene’s taste for killing unicorns and drinking their blood made her unredeemable. It seemed unlikely that Raylene would help Lizzy – what brought that on?
  • The author was overreliance on phrases like “broken girl” and “faerie blood.”
  • The pink Cadillac jumped the shark.
  • Country Car Interiors by Martha Stewart was a memorable title in the magic bookstore.

Please add any additional thoughts or comments you may have about The Onion Girl. We gave this title the codes CTY, ELF, MYT, CAP, HOME & MAG with an average rating of 3.1.

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