"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Finally, I have read this book that is essentially part of the modern fairy tale canon!
Just because of circumstance, I had read less well-known Levine books before this one: The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales, and Fairest. While her retelling style is consistent across all, which take place in the same world, after reading Ella Enchanted I could see why this one in particular stands out. At first I thought the style was a little too cutesy for my taste, but I liked the exploration of all the conundrums one could find herself in with a curse of obedience such as Ella had. This is also an especially compelling explanation for how Cinderella of the traditional tale could have become a slave in her own home -- I remember the first thing I started questioning about the story of Cinderella was why she didn't just say NO to her stepfamily's demands. (As I got older, I had a better understanding of the psychology of abuse and this question became less puzzling to me -- still it's one that bears exploring in any retelling of Cinderella.)
Levine's worldbuilding, while somewhat superficial, still brings a new perspective to the genre, particularly her characterization of giants as kind and gregarious -- I loved the description of the giant wedding ceremony! It was also refreshing to have a royal family that was kind and down-to-earth (it gave me the feeling that Frell is something of a small, backwater kingdom, but I could be wrong). The stepmother gets very little play in this version, but both the stepsisters were well characterized, the younger one in such a way that I actually found her quite sympathetic.
And the love story -- what can I say? I am 33 and married and consider myself more pragmatic than romantic, but the earnestness of this love story really captured my heart in a way that was totally unexpected, and I felt as excited by it as I would have had I read this book at 13. The ending sequence with the ball and the slipper hunt and such felt a little rushed, and I wanted a little more from the actual breaking of the curse. But overall, it was easy to see why this book has become beloved by so many.
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