The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories

“Aiken writes with the genius of a born storyteller, with mother wit expanded and embellished by civilized learning, and with the brilliance of an avenging angel.”—The New Yorker

Joan Aiken’s stories captivated readers for fifty years. They’re funny, smart, gentle, and occasionally very, very scary. The stories in The Monkey’s Wedding are collected here for the very first time and include six never before published, as well as two previously published under the pseudonym Nicholas Dee. Here you’ll find the story of a village for sale . . . or is the village itself the story? There’s an English vicar who declares on his deathbed that he might have lived an entirely different life. After his death, a large, black, argumentative cat makes an appearance. . . .

This hugely imaginative collection of incongruous, light, and unexpected stories features Shelley Jackson’s spooky and eyecatching cover painting inspired by the story “A Mermaid Too Many” and includes introductions by Joan Aiken as well by her daughter, Lizza Aiken.


* “This imaginative posthumous collection includes among others six never before published short stories and two originally published under a pseudonym…. Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection—like the mermaid in a bottle—is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, never ceasing to find interest or amazement in the traps people set for themselves. Some of the stories are slight, but Aiken’s elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark.”
Kirkus Reviews

“From a bottled mermaid brought home from a sailor’s adventures at sea to a vicar reincarnated as a malevolent cat, fantasy is combined with magic, myth and adventure to form weird, wonderful and immersive tales.”
For Book’s Sake

“Aiken’s vivid descriptions move nimbly through pastoral meadows and circus chaos, gothic grotesques and quirky romances. In the end, all of her narratives tease the reader by rejecting our desire for neatness or closure. No didacticism here. As Aiken’s narrator sweetly laments, ‘No moral to this story, you will be saying, and I am afraid it is true.'”
California Literary Review

Table of Contents

Introduction by Joan Aiken
Introduction by Lizza Aiken
Girl in a Whirl
Harp Music
Octopi in the Sky
Reading in Bed
Red-Hot Favourite
Second Thoughts
Spur of the Moment
The Fluttering Thing
The Magnesia Tree
The Monkey’s Wedding
The Paper Queen
The Sale of Midsummer
Water of Youth
Wee Robin
A Mermaid Too Many
Model Wife
The Helper

Praise for Joan Aiken:

“The wit is irrepressible, the invention wild. . . . Such delicious lightness, paradoxically, is the fiction’s raison d’être.”
—Ed Park, Los Angeles Times

“An extremely active and creative mind, in all ways dedicated to the enjoyment of the reader.”
The Short Review

“Admirable stories for any age because they are dug from a delightful mind. Many will drop into their readers lives like those enriching stones which break the surfaces of still pools and leave rings long after their splash.”
Times Literary Supplement

“A consummate story-teller.”
The Times

“Joan Aiken’s invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come.”
—Philip Pullman

“The best kind of writer, strange and spooky and surprising, never sentimental or whimsical.”
—Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners)

“Distinguished and sometimes beautiful writing.”
—Naomi Mitchison, New Statesman

About the Author

Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote over a hundred books (including The Serial Garden) and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband’s death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women’s Own, and many others. Visit her online at:


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