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Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story - Carolyn Turgeon

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Genre: Romance / Author: Carolyn Turgeon / Paperback / 352 Pages / Book is published 2009-07-09 by Headline Review

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      26.04.2010 15:05
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      Recommended...sort of!

      The Cinderella Story is a fairytale that will always be close to my heart as it evokes some strong childhood memories in me when I think of it. When I used to stay at my Grandparents, my nan used to tuck me in at night and I'd beg her to tell me the Cinderella story each time, I was never bored of it! My nan always made it sound romantic, never forgot a detail and I was always totally enchanted by it.
      Since losing her last year, this story is even more important to me and any little reference to it makes me smile. As far as I can remember, the story my nan told each time never wavered and was always the same - so to find a book which retells the story was one that intrigued me immensely.

      ** Story Synopsis... **

      Lil has been exiled from fairy life. An elderly woman, Lil works all day in a book store in modern New York with only the occasional visit from her boss George for company. However, Lil's life wasn't always like this. Many, many years ago, Lil was blessed with the opportunity of becoming Cinderella's Godmother; her one job was to get Cinderella to the ball and get her to marry the Prince.

      Most people know how the story goes, but what if the fairytale that has been passed down to us through the years has now been distorted beyond all recognition like Chinese whispers? Lil certainly wasn't the plump elderly Godmother that she was made out to be in the fairytale, nor was she the loving and kindly type, and she certainly didn't succeed in getting Cinderella to the ball, in fact, Lil's actions got her banished from the world she knows for good. Instead, a once young and beautiful fairy is now as an elderly human woman; her life revolves around opening and closing a book shop and going home to unwrap her feathery wings and soak in the bath.

      So, what is the real story? Will Lil ever manage to redeem herself and get back to the life she knows?

      ** I love Cinderella! **

      Whilst studying English at University, we did a module on retelling of fairytales for the modern day and I always found these retold tales quite fascinating. Of course, my love of Cinderella meant that I always focussed on those retelling her story. Some of the stories were quite dark - more Brothers Grimm than anything and others were a literal modern day interpretation like they do in American movies. They were all fascinating and so after reading a quick synopsis of this story it was a inevitable that I would want to read this and find out what interpretation the author, Carolyn Turgeon would get from it.

      At first, however, I thought I may end up feeling disappointed by this version and several times during the first half the book I was on the verge of putting it aside completely. As I have mentioned, in my experience, the most successful and fascinating retelling of fairytales is those that are a bit darker with a very different message from the original, or those who take the story and put it into a modern day scenario. However, for the first part of the book, I couldn't quite grasp the concept and I wondered how it would really work. Lil was just a lonely old woman, the fairy side of the story was weak and fluffy, and not a lot was happening to really grip me and make me carry on.

      In this tale, the reader is alternately taken from the modern day Lil working in her bookshop and keeping her identity secret to the past "fairy" Lil. All of this does create a bit of suspense; Lil's modern New York life is dull and I read quickly to get to the sections where we are taken to Lil as a fairy as it begins to explain the story behind Cinderella - after all, this is the reason why I wanted the book in the first place! Despite my desire to read the fairy side of things, I did find the book really slow going, and I found that I didn't really have all that much interest in modern Lil.

      Towards the middle half of the book, things do pick up in the form of another character, Veronica who is a young woman whom Lil feels as been sent to her to be rescued (Lil herself and Veronica need rescuing in Lil's eyes!) Lil decides that Veronica and her lonely boss George are destined to be and that she must get them together - by doing so she will be forgiven and will return to her friends and family in the fairy world.

      Veronica is a very interesting character, and although there are several chapters that involve Veronica and develop the relationship she has with Lil, I felt that this characters vibrancy was wasted in the book and not enough was made of her.

      It is also at this point that we find out more details about what happened that fateful night with Cinderella - the moment I'd been waiting for! However I cannot tell you how disappointed I was in the whole thing, and I am not even sure I can give a reason - perhaps it was just the shattering of a story that I loved dearly, but I found this new Godmother one that I disliked immensely - I didn't sympathise with Lil's situation at all.

      ** WHAT THE...?!! **

      With regards to the "modern" New York half of the book, I am really on the fence. This book went from being an average interpretation (which really focussed on the modern day rather than reworking the original story) to a story which confused me completely. It will be hard to try and describe the turn of events without ruining the ending for those wishing to read it, but after trusting everything that Lil as the main character has told us, the reader is then thrown into confusion as Lil becomes extremely unreliable as a narrator and I was left unsure what to believe.
      At this point, the whole dreamy, gentle nature of the book thus far is turned on its head, with much more darker themes coming to play. All sorts of subjects are raised from suicide and abuse through to mental health which really did make me look at this book in a different light.

      Leading on from that, this change in atmosphere certainly made for an interesting twist at the end of this book - one that I'm not entirely sure about. Half of me liked it the other half felt cheated - a bit like a children's book when the main character wakes up at the end and pronounces that "it had all been a dream".

      My University half of me loved this turn of events as it took me back to some brilliant reworking of fairytales I read about during my studies. This half of it also gave the book a bit of grounding in reality and a way in which to explain Lil's existence. Lastly, it gets major brownie points for the end half, a book that looks sweet and sugary but one that has a sting in its tale is always a joy to discover.

      The book also leaves the story open to interpretation at the end with no clear explanation as to what is the real truth. I can certainly appreciate how cleverly the author turned this story upside down. It's a hard story to peg really. I did like the idea of this as this emphasises the whole point of this reworking - what is the truth in this fairytale anyway?

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