I had never read anything by Charles De Lint prior to listening/reading The Onion Girl. It is a very good book. I was surprised at how well he mixed the faerie world into what would be considered our world. The book is dark and I am aware that some people have found it very depressing and hard to read. I would say while it is a book that deals with dark issues it is one of hope and redemption. You do have to stick with it to get to the hope and redemption.
The book deals with issues of sexual abuse, at times in a graphic but not pornographic way. It also deals with children living on the streets and the years work those who go through these experiences spend on healing and coping with the mental trauma related. I was nervous to read this because I have a very hard time when these issues are dealt with in a trite, superficial, or inaccurate manner. I am not an expert but did work in social work with these issues for a few years and found De Lint’s interpretation to be believable and in a way healing. Many people who deal with childhood trauma turn to fantasy and science fiction as a release to live in another world. I was impressed with De Lint.
The Onion Girl details the story of Jilly Coppercorn. She is an artist who at one time lived on the streets before coming in contact with someone who would inspire and help her get back on her feet. As a child she left home to escape a traumatic and abusive home life. She left her younger sister as she was only a young girl herself when she left home. She confronts her past in this book as she navigates her life as an adult. Jilly has the ability to see many facets to Newford, the city the story is set in, one facet is to see and communicate with the faerie creatures that exist in the city. Jilly’s connection to this part of the city helps to continue her personal growth. De Lint borrows from both Native American and Irish faerie lore to create this aspect of the novel. I found his world building to be detailed and fascinating.
The Newford books can be considered a series but Charles De Lint develops each book so that it can be a stand alone novel. It is not necessary to read them in order. I would, however, say that if you have interest in reading Widdershins you should read The Onion Girl first. It continues the story of Jilly and while you could read Widdershins on its own I believe you will get more out of it if you read The Onion Girl first.
I found the Onion Girl to be well written and captivating. It is a very interesting story that keeps you intrigued. I highly recommend this book.