Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
Fairy Tale: Bluebeard
Trigger Warning: This post will discuss verbal and emotional abuse.
Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson is a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale set in the American South in 1855. And what’s so interesting about this book to me is how it deals with the idea of freedom. What does it mean to not have agency over yourself? To be unable to express your own personality?
The story is this; Sophia Petheram, fourth child of a poor family whose father has just died, is moving to live with her “fabulously rich” godfather from Boston to his home, Wyndriven Abbey, outside Chicataw, Mississippi. Since her father has passed away and Sophia is seventeen and underage, her godfather Monsieur de Cressac is taking her in. Though they have never before met, de Cressac has always had a special interest in Sophia, sending her elaborate gifts on each of her birthdays, and Sophia in turn has created elaborate fantasy stories about him that kind of come across like those “most interesting man in the world” commercials.
And de Cressac doesn’t disappoint. His home alone is more than enough to impress – he transplanted Wyndriven Abbey stone by stone from its original location in England, along with every object that was in it. Not only that, but de Cressac has many stories about his world travels to impress Sophia with – in her eyes, he is quite the adventurer.
But here’s the issue. We all know this story is about Bluebeard. It says so right on the cover. We all know who de Cressac really is and what he’s capable of doing. It doesn’t help that as Sophia settles into Wyndriven that she slowly uncovers clues about four previous wives that have lived there, the first divorcing de Cressac, and the other three dead; one during childbirth, one by suicide, and one from consumption. And we also know this creepy fact; all of them were redheads. And guess what color Sophia’s hair is? You guessed it. Red.