Pieces of Peony Painted Teacups Critique by Ginny Swart

Story NamePieces of Peony-Painted Tea Cups  

Author:   Shelley Blignaut

Assessor:  Ginny Swart

Date:  2 June 2009


This is a great story: imaginative, very original in concept and beautifully written. No wonder all the judges loved it.

It's frosted with gorgeous imagery right from the start:

-          the clouds pregnant with rain and their swollen bellies darkening the sky,

-          Autumn leaves rusted on the boughs of trees until they fell to streak the lawns with colours of saffron and beetroot,

-          the cheesecloth moon reflected a fluorescent glow on her pale cheeks.

And the phrase: that February brought something else. It brought Grace... is full of portent.

All the way through, the reader is taken in, thinking the writer is an ordinary, lonely little girl whose next-door neighbour has moved away and is welcoming a new one. Giving the classic "Invisible friend" all the emotions of a normal child as well as the power to write the story, was an excellent frame.  There were clever little hints all the way through that this is what Emily was, such as:

since I would never see her grow, let us just say she did.

There were times when Grace would fade into a world of her own and stare blankly through me, but like all good hints, the reader only remembers them when she reaches the end.

We really feel for Emily when Grace's mother insists she face reality and we can almost feel her fading away, a bit like in The Water Babies.

There are very few nitpicks here - Days had eaten at this one's feathers would have read better as Time had eaten this one's feathers.

And it was a shame about the sloppy punctuation (er.. for Ravens, especially dead one's, as well as several missing commas.)  Proofreading is so important when you get to competition level like this.

... it was only in the subconscious land of dreaming that she still saw me, and perhaps that is where I belong.

This is a perfect last line, and so sad!

I hope you'll look out for an anthology or some literary magazine where you could submit this later, it really deserves to be read more widely. Brilliant story. 
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