“Powerful, engaging, thought-provoking, brave, inspiring.”
“These stories are spell-binding. They draw us into tales with beginnings middles and endings; harsh legacies and histories; painful recovery and hopeful futures. Through the genre of the Fairy Story and by drawing characteristic of the princesses, lost girls, heroines, wolves and beasts from stories told to us as children, Into The Woods succeeds in helping us to understand something very important about the vulnerability and cruelty of human nature, which often go hand in hand.”
“Retelling classic stories isn’t something new however, it takes a highly talented author to take real life examples of modern day abuse, co-dependence and domestic violence rewrite them as classic fairy tales.”
“Into The Woods does not invite us to judge either the men or the women. Instead it takes us though life journeys of dashed hopes, danger, and fear; of untold human suffering and despair of the kind that far too many women experience.”
“May these tales provide courage, hope and an opportunity for change and in doing so awaken future generations of women to their full potential”
One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their life time.
Two women a week are killed by their partners.
It is rarely talked about.
Enough is enough.
Into the Woods is a collection of fairy stories based on interviews with women who have lived with and escaped from abusive relationships. Women who wanted to turn their dark experience into something good, to help other women, to protect other families, to let other victims know things can be different.
Let’s start talking about domestic abuse here and now. All profits from the print version of the book will go to domestic abuse charities.
If you are domestic abuse charity please get in touch for how to use the book to fund raise.
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This book should be compulsory for all teenagers to read. There are so many essential messages within about how to stay mentally and physically safe, and warning signs to watch for. It provides an easy way to start difficult conversations by discussing the characters, their challenges and their decisions.
Stories, fairy stories in particular, are a powerful medium for conveying deep truths. This book has the power to save lives.
I really can't think of another book quite like this. It fills a huge gap in the library of stories told by women about women. The darkest, most difficult of subjects skillfully woven into a compelling and ultimately life-affirming read. The love the author feels towards her cast of 'characters' leaps out of every page. Julie writes about them with respect and sensitivity, yet is unflinching in portraying the savagery and brutality of their experiences. It was a tough read at times, yes - but isn't that the point? Because this daily reality happens away from our wider gaze, but right there in the homes of our neighbours, sisters and colleagues. So much was set out here for us to observe: the missed opportunities and reluctance to step in; the alarm bells that didn't ring loudly enough; the power and might of the women when they did take back control - and the hurt and fear that still lingers for them and their children. Julie also celebrates the good people who believed and stood with those women as they made their brave decisions, and includes some sorry reflections about the formal safety nets that failed, too. So much to take away from this, Julie, it's a book I will carry with me for a long time, and which I shall be recommending far and wide.
This is an enchanting book of fairy tales, full of wisdom and courage and fear and doubt. The tales weave together darkness, violence, captivity and torture and then, goodness, light, escape and healing…but the tales end without a wholly resounding ‘happy ever after.’
These are tales told by real women about the domestic abuse they have suffered. Julie Leoni’s unique story-telling approach to these real-life accounts has the combined effect of heightening the horror of what is happening, whilst at the same time allowing the illusion of the ‘fairy tale’ to provide some emotional distance and safety…like watching a horror film through your fingers, from behind the sofa.
Being a victim of domestic abuse can leave you with enduring low self-esteem, self-doubt, an inability to trust yourself and others, emotional detachment and anxiety. Telling your story is not easy. I know, because I too have my own story.
I honour the author and all the women in this book who had the courage to tell their stories so that others in the same situation can know that they are not alone and that there is hope and wisdom from those who have walked into, and out of the woods before them.
As an experienced coach and facilitator of hundreds of women’s development programmes, I know the healing power of being with people who are willing to share their experiences with you and to be with you without judgement.
I hope this book is read, shared, talked of, written about and passed from woman to woman. I hope it inspires more women to tell their stories and to grow in courage and strength. I hope it inspires women to support one other, to ask for help, to value themselves, to learn to put themselves first and to turn darkness into light. I hope it saves some lives
Fucking hell, Julie Leoni...no really, just fucking hell! Goldilocks has left me all churned up, emotional...and blown to kingdom-fucking-come!
Into the Woods cleverly uses well-known fairy tales to make some powerful points about gender, patriarchy and the abuse of women and families by men. It is a well-written, hard-hitting and ultimately uplifting book.
'Wow, that's dark! I'm not sure I want to read that book.'
So said my friend, when I explained to him the premise of the book, and divulged my thoughts on it.
Fair enough, I suppose. While you're eating your weetabix, or wanting to go to sleep, we don't particularly want to be reading about the intimate pain and suffering - real, not fictional - of others, even if presented in a fictionalised way. However, we consume scary material on a regular basis in other forms. Non-fiction books, about war, the environment, suffering in a variety of forms; fiction in the form of stories and films covering any of a number of horrific, bloody types of tales, not to mention video games that reward children with a dollop of dopamine for one-shot-to-the-head kills.
There is a sort of sphere of impenetrability around relationships, much like our own sexuality is not a topic for discussion. 'You can't judge a relationship from the outside', I once heard, from a friend, who'd been beaten by a previous partner. We are totally desensitised to horrific violence, all around us, but when it comes to violence within a relationship, a sort of verbal force-field comes up.
So, Julie tells stories that don't get heard, that need to be heard. We all like to think of ourselves as good judges of character, but in some cases that's just not true. I've been let down hard by close friends before. We can all get fooled. These real, heart-wrenching stories, presented as they are as fairytales, serve to confuse our sensibilities. leaving us questioning our own standards about what is and isn't suitable for public discussion. It doesn't feel real - indeed, the stories themselves feel very extreme - which combined with the settings leaves us occasionally feeling like we're simply reading fairytales. A lot of the actual fairytales from our youths are actually quite sinister, when you think about them - an imprisoned princess, children fearing getting thrown in the oven, getting eaten alive by a wolf - but we give them a pass, because they're old, and they're fiction. These sinister fairytales are real life, leaving us shocked and upset.
Julie Leoni has written an important book. It is easy to close our eyes to things that are not affecting us, right here and now. Julie reminds us that we could all fall victim to a troubled soul.
This book is such a unique take on domestic abuse, something that needs to be spoken about more and discussed and supported but that people often find it so hard to talk about (understandably) or write about in a way that isn't terrifying. The twist of telling these true-life stories by way of fairy tales makes them intriguing, and allows you to relate to them on so many different levels as they are mystical but also easy to relate to real life. I found so many parts of the tales relatable to my own life, and to others I know. It also allowed me to realise that there is help and there is a way out of the 'woods' – it's inspiring. It gave me chills, made me cry and made me laugh and get goosebumps along the way. What a wonderful wonderful book. I think it will help many women... thank you Julie.
When I was maybe 4 or 5 years old a kind Aunt gifted me a huge hardbacked book of Grimm’s Fairy tales. I recall many a rainy day flicking through the colourful illustrated pages, entertaining myself retelling the stories in my own words.
Retelling classic stories isn’t something new however, it takes a highly talented author to take real life examples of modern day abuse, co-dependence and domestic violence and retell*/rewrite* them as classic fairy tales.
Julie has successfully managed this with Into the Woods, ingeniously combining self-help with magic and fantasy. This nurturing collection of tales shines light on these dark, seldom spoken about experiences to create a healing, informing and empowering resource.
May these tales provide courage, hope and an opportunity for change and in doing so awaken future generations of women to their full potential.
An absolute must read for women everywhere. A nurturing collection of beautifully penned modern-day fairytales. I defy any woman not to relate to at least one of the characters in these carefully crafted tales, uniting women in their woe, to reclaim their power and potential.
These stories are spell-binding. They draw us into tales with beginnings middles and endings; harsh legacies and histories; painful recovery and hopeful futures. Through the genre of the Fairy Story and by drawing characteristic of the princesses, lost girls, heroines, wolves and beasts from stories told to us as children, Julie succeeds in helping us to understand something very important about the vulnerability and cruelty of human nature, which often go hand in hand.
All our heroines are loved by their parents and are born into circumstances which provide the potential for them to be ‘perfectly themselves’. But one by one, they find themselves, as grown women, in adult intimate relationships, where they are horribly abused by the men with whom they have fallen in love.
By gathering life histories, Julie has left us with questions about what connected our heroines. Was there something in their family story that made them susceptible to being drawn into abusive relationships? Each has a different beginning yet they share shadows, ghosts from their childhoods, which haunt them.
Did their parents’ own relationship stories set scenes for our heroines’ conformity, their shared need to please, their feelings of less than, their belief that their love, their goodness, could have the capacity to heal the psychologically broken men that they chose. Somewhere, in a reshaping that their parents required of them, these girls lost their authentic selves, buried their true spirits, locked away their passions and desires, learned to please, conform, quieten and retreat to the shadows.
As their stories unfold, Julie does not invite us to see our women as victims yet, all finally break under the weight of suffering. They become worn down by the fight to cover up the abuse they suffer in protecting themselves and their children. They tolerate serious abuse, violence and emotional cruelty. They don’t fight back, they appease, they submit, they provide clean homes, meals on tables and, allow themselves to be sexual objects to their terrified and terrifying partners.
Finally, for each of our heroines, the breaking point finally comes and each finds her strength. Each finally finds and trusts others who can help and they escape the lairs, the prison towers, the cold dark cellars and are rescued, not by the handsome prince or the knight on the white horse, but by themseves. They each find a way back that leaves us wondering, once again about what it was in their childhoods when the corner stones were set, that created in these women the will and fierce capacity to survive.
These are a very cleverly drawn set of stories that leave us both horrified and compassionate. The women are not without flaws; their infantile experiences leave clues about why they were ill equipped to fully understand adult intimacy and trust. But neither are the men, the perpetrators, intrinsically evil. We are invited to understand that they, as infant boys and young men have been misguided and significantly harmed by their own childhoods.
Julie does not invite us to judge either the men or the women. Instead she takes us though life journeys of dashed hopes, danger, and fear; of untold human suffering and despair of the kind that far too many women experience. And she then shows us how our women find their power, first individually and then, collectively. There is no ‘happily ever after’ in these stories, for most there is a legacy of deep loss and lifelong grief but there is also, in all of our women, fierce love, deep courage and tentative hope in the commitment of the hard work of recovery and healing.