Author: Fiona Price
Fiona Price is a Melbourne based author who has always had a passion for words and she is currently directing that passion at modern fairy tale retellings.
Let Down Your Hair is a modern take on the Rapunzel fairy tale with Sage Rampion as our fair maiden. Her tower is one of her grandmother’s making, while not physically caged she has certainly been isolated by her upbringing.
The abandoned daughter of a teen model Sage is raised by her feminism extremist grandmother Andrea, head of Womyn’s Studies. Andrea takes an extreme approach to feminism with no beauty products, no razors, no hairdressers, no men, no cell phones and a very preachy attitude. She has managed to keep Sage completely out of the mainstream world for her entire childhood by home-schooling and she is less than prepared for life in the real world. She has been completely fashioned in Andrea’s image and has not been given the freedom to formulate an original thought, beginning to grow her hair at eighteen is the only small rebellion she has indulged in.
The story begins with Sage having finished her degree in Women’s Studies online after a negative experience with her first peer group at university and about to embark on her PhD, sharing an office with Andrea. On her first day she is gazing at the view out the window to be confronted with a naked man in the building next door. This one chance eyeful changes the course of Sage’s life.
I won’t say too much more about the story because I am not one for spoilers and telling the story. I think Let Down Your Hair had a lot of promise, the premise intrigued me because I am a fan of fairy tales so I like to see how they translate into a more modern context.
I found Let Down Your Hair to be very cliche. There was no room for grey, everything was black or white. Sage is the pure and innocent young maiden unsullied by the world, equipped with a righteous education scripted by her grandmother and a wardrobe filled only with castoffs by aforementioned grandmother.
Andrea is every feminist stereotype you can imagine and it doesn’t take long to realise that she is moulding Sage into her image rather than giving her the tools to take control of her life and her independence.
Sage discovers correspondence from her mother and uncovers a whole side to her life she never knew about. Things go from bad to worse and Sage realises how little control she has had over her life so makes a break for freedom. She ends up on the doorstep of her mother over twenty years after she last saw her, not so much because she wanted to find her but because she had nowhere else to go.
Enter Emmeline Rampion, teenage single mother who had big dreams of modelling. She is the polar opposite of Andrea in every way, completely stereotypical of a trophy wife. She is shallow, beautiful and beauty obsessed. In a matter of hours she has begun to remake Sage in her own image. Not a page goes by without the differences between Emmeline and Andrea highlighted. Sage is so ripe for remoulding and allows Emmeline to use her anger at Andrea to twist her into someone she doesn’t recognise.
The more changes Emmeline implements, the more comfortable Sage becomes until the voice of Andrea starts up in her head about how bad it all is.
Andrea and Emmeline are just like the classic devil and angel perched upon Sage’s shoulders, each pulling her in the opposite direction. Both are quite fluent in manipulating any situation to leave Sage doubting herself and her perceptions.
There are some important issues raised in Let Down Your Hair about feminism and body issues but I found that Price’s approach was a little too in your face about it all, there wasn’t a lot of subtlety about the story. I also found it to be quite predictable.
My biggest issue with the book was the repetitive overuse of hun and babe. This is totally my own issue, I am finding it quite grating even in my day to day life but it really seemed like overkill to me. Emmeline added babe to the end of every sentence and Andrea used hun all the time.
Sage’s transformation was dramatic and I enjoyed her journey to independence, but more so to her independence of thought; to knowing her own mind and finally having enough information to be able to make her own decisions; to actually finding her passion and deciding what she wants to do with her life.
A great premise, an interesting take on the Rapunzel fairy tale with fluent writing that is ambiguous to time and place. It could be set anywhere and in any modern time. There is nothing that places or dates it specifically, which is actually very much like the original fairy tales; you could sometimes discern a general era but never pinpoint a particular time.
I think there will be mixed feelings about this one but I am certain it will find an audience. I will still be interested to see where Price’s career path takes her next.