Fiona French, Snow White in New York
Published 1986 by Oxford University Press, 32p
The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has retellings galore but Fiona French’s interpretation melted my heart. It is smart, sophisticated and jazzy. And it fascinated Ema too.
Set in New York in the 1920s, it tells the story of Snow White, a poor little rich girl, whose life will change completely when her father marries the classiest dame in the city, the Queen of the Underworld.
The characters recreate an atmosphere of luxury and decadence, of lust and violence (Do you remember Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby?). Decorative architecture, tall buildings and urban landscapes outline the setting for a story rich in intrigues and transformations of the New York’s elite.
The stepmother plots to get rid of the beautiful, innocent child and asks one of her bodyguards to take her down town and shoot her. The man will spare the girl’s life and leave her alone in the streets of New York.
Snow White will find her salvation in a jazz club where she is welcomed by seven compassionate jazz-men who make her their singer. The Prince Charming in the story is a reporter absorbed by Snow White’s refinement and talent.
When the Queen sees Snow White on the front page of the New York Mirror, she decides to throw a grand party to celebrate her success. Blinded by envy she actually wants to kill her stepdaughter and drops a poisoned cherry in her cocktail.
New York is devastated by the death of young Snow White. In a rainy, decaying atmosphere, an impressive funeral cortege watches the coffin carried by the seven jazz-men. But when one of them stumbles, to everyone’s amazement, Snow White wakes up and the first she sees is the handsome reporter.
Snow White and the reporter fell in love. They had a big society wedding, and the next day cruised off on a glorious honeymoon together.
The story is beautifully completed by the stylish illustrations which capture the modernism of the 20’s, the luxury and the opulence of the decade.